Statelessness Program

The Statelessness Program is an initiative dedicated to research, training and outreach on statelessness and related issues.


In 2013, UNHCR and Tilburg University established a research award for excellence in the field of statelessness, with a view to draw more attention to this global phenomenon and area of study. Any university in the world can nominate students for the award, which has separate prize categories for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral research. An international expert jury, composed of leading academics in the field of citizenship, statelessness and human rights, determines the winning entries.

Winners of the 2015 Awards announced

Tilburg University and UNHCR have honoured three student researchers from universities in the USA, Norway and Netherlands for the Best Research on Statelessness in 2015.

The award for best doctoral thesis went to Kristy Belton of the University of Connecticut (United States) who explored the consequences of statelessness through the cases of the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. The expert jury, composed of nine senior academics from different universities around the world, considered Belton’s research to be very relevant and timely, but also of broad interest because it explores how citizenship can create ‘others’ and borders between people, reflecting on the meaning of membership and the value of nationality. The thesis, entitled Precarious Belonging: Stateless people in a ‘Postnational’ world, introduces the notion of statelessness as a form of ‘psychological displacement’, offering an innovative way to conceptualize the problem and its impact.

In the category of graduate research, the prize was awarded to Marie Brokstad Lund-Johansen for her thesis entitled Fighting for Citizenship in Kuwait, written as part of her Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oslo (Norway). This thesis discusses the causes and characteristics of mobilization in Kuwait’s long-standing stateless community, known as the Bidoon. The jury noted that this thesis carves out a part of the story of the Bidoon that has not been told before – what triggered their activism for citizenship. According to the jury, this research may have implications for other citizenship-related protest movements.

Veronica Perozo Alberti received the undergraduate award for her Bachelor’s thesis, An Instrument of Exclusion: How migration law affects statelessness, submitted in completion of her degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Tilburg University (the Netherlands). The thesis looks at the relationship between migration law and statelessness, exploring some key aspects of migration law (right to enter a country, right to leave, refugee status) and then analyzing them vis-à-vis the subject of statelessness.

This year, the International Expert Jury which assessed the nominated work was comprised of: Prof. Osamu Arakaki (International Christian University, Japan); Prof. Khadija Elmadmad (Casablanca University, Morocco); Prof. Geoff Gilbert (University of Essex, United Kingdom); Prof. René de Groot (Maastricht University, the Netherlands); Dr. Benyam Mezmur (University of the Western Cape, South Africa); Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree (Mahidol University, Thailand); Prof. Kim Rubenstein (Australian National University, Australia); Prof. Peter Spiro (Temple University, United States); and Prof. Carmen Tiburcio (Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil). Click here to download the full Jury Report on this year’s Awards.

Nomination guidelines

The nomination guidelines for the next edition of the UNHCR Award for Statelessness Research will be posted here early in 2016. Check back then to find out more about which research is eligible for the award and what the nomination procedure is!

Winners from previous years


Ms. Maria Jose Recalde Vela

Winner of the 2014 UNHCR Award for Best Undergraduate Research on Statelessness for her Bachelor thesis “How can identity assert a claim to citizenship? In search of a safeguard against statelessness from a legal and socio-psychological perspective” (Liberal Arts and Sciences, Tilburg University, the Netherlands). Since winning the award, Maria completed her LLM in International and European Law and MSc in Victimology and Criminal Justice and has interned with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion. She is currently pursuing the LLM Research Master in Law (MPhil equivalent), and hopes to continue researching statelessness in the future. Her award winning thesis was chosen for the Student Research Conference (a Dutch and Belgian conference for bachelor thesis research), and she will present her thesis on November 11th at the Conference.

Ms Caia Vlieks

Winner of the 2014 UNHCR Award for Best Graduate Research on Statelessness for her Master’s thesis “A European human rights obligation for statelessness determination?” (International Human Rights Law, Tilburg University, the Netherlands). When she received the award, Caia was two weeks into her PhD, hoping to include some of her master’s thesis research in this project. A year later, she reflects: “I have gained more knowledge on statelessness in Europe specifically. I am now on the right track to complete my PhD research on European regional instruments for the prevention and resolution of statelessness against the backdrop of the changing conceptions of nationality and citizenship before the end of 2018. Also, I have been teaching students about fundamental rights, as well as lecturing about statelessness in the Netherlands, Europe and/or the world, which I find particularly rewarding.”

Dr. Jason Tucker

Winner of the 2014 UNHCR Award for Best Doctoral Research on Statelessness for his PhD thesis “Challenging the tyranny of citizenship: Statelessness in Lebanon” (Social and Political Sciences, University of Bath, United Kingdom). Since the award Jason spent a year and a half in Kazakhstan working for UNHCR at their regional office in Central Asia. He is currently working for the UNHCR office covering Northern Europe, where he is developing national action plans to end statelessness for the States in the region. Jason has also written on statelessness in Central Asia and hopes to publish his doctoral thesis in 2016.


Ms. Amanda Cheong

Winner of the 2013 UNHCR Award for Best Undergraduate Research on Statelessness for her Bachelor thesis “Changing conceptions of citizenship among stateless Chinese-Bruneian immigrants in Vancouver” (Sociology, University of British Columbia, Canada). Amanda is now pursuing a PhD in sociology and social policy at Princeton University. She is interested in citizenship, irregular immigration, undocumentedness, and statelessness. Her current research projects include: analyzing the naturalization prospects of formerly undocumented immigrants in the US, and comparing states' civil documentation practices.

Ms. Eva Mrekajová

Joint winner of the 2014 UNHCR Award for Best Graduate Research on Statelessness for her Master’s thesis “Naturalisation of stateless persons” (International Human Rights Law, Tilburg University, the Netherlands). Following the completion of her Master’s degree, Eva interned with the statelessness unit of UNHCR in Geneva, before going on to conduct research with Vasa Prava, an NGO in Bosnia and Herzegovina that assists persons at risk of statelessness in acquiring civil registration documentation necessary to confirm nationality. This August she have been awarded Turkiye Bursları to continue her studies and pursue a Master in Sociology at Uludağ University in Bursa, where she is currently doing her preparation year studying Turkish language.

Ms. Caroline McInerny

Joint winner of the 2014 UNHCR Award for Best Graduate Research on Statelessness for her Master’s thesis “Citizenship Laws of Madagascar: Future challenges for a developing nation” (Law, University of Virginia, United States). Since receiving the UNHCR award for the work she did in Madagascar, Caroline has graduated from the University of Virginia Law School.  She is currently an associate in the litigation practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in NYC.  Caroline has continued to work in human rights law as the Secretariat for the International Bar Associations' Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking and as pro bono counsel for undocumented migrants.