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The Stateless

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"The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion— formulas which were designed to solve problems within given communities— but that they no longer belong to any community whatsoever."
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

There are the persons who have a nationality. And there are the stateless persons, who don't have one. Whether your state was destroyed, your country doesn't want you anymore or you passed through breaks in nationality laws, you ended up without nationality.


This became common with the rise of nationalism and citizenship, where the importance of having papers signified access to property, voting rights, bank accounts and inheritance, all of which wreak havoc on citizens. This became especially common in the 20th century, when wars and revolutions meant your country could no longer exist or a dictatorship could expel you and/or strip you of your nationality. It's a Cyclical Trope in the media and stories, rising and ebbing with increasing and lowered international tensions, as a result of poor diplomatic relations, sanctions, and wars and revolutions. Since the end of the Cold War the treaties were redacted so as to reduce the number of cases where someone could end without nationality; nevertheless, some might end up stateless by not having their birth registered or if the governments fall outside the purview of the united block from the end of the Cold War.


Is likely to be a status for Space Cossacks, or anyone else who is migrating or Settling the Frontier. Sometimes it is kind of the point as the reason they went into the wilderness was specifically to get away from the state.

One variety of the Flying Dutchman, in the "The Man With No Country" section.

May lead into Invading Refugees.

The Knight Errant and Ronin are a smaller scale version who lack a Lord to serve under (which is essentially the same thing in a feudal system).

See also You Can't Go Home Again, Doomed Hometown, Un-person, The Exile and Persona Non Grata.

This trope has nothing to see with the Mukokuseki trope, although it literally means "stateless."



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     Anime and Manga  

  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: Fai D. Flourite. With his home country gone, he has no place to officially call home. Syaoran lacks a nationality, as well. Thankfully, they both have loved ones in welcoming countries, and perhaps someday they will become citizens of one of them.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Several of the characters in Celestial Being have no known national allegiance. While most of them are citizens either of Earth or a Space Colony who joined the organization, it's an open question whether Tieria or the other Innovades (Artificial Humans) are legally registered anywhere, while Feldt Grace was literally born and raised in the covert organization, so it's rather unlikely she's been given nationality anywhere either.

     Comic Book  

  • In the aftermath of the Secret Empire (a conspiracy to take control of the United States led by a thinly-veiled version of then-president Richard Nixon), Steve Rogers lost faith in his country and abandoned his identity as Captain America, adopting the persona "Nomad".
  • In a story, "The Incident", Superman plans to renounce his American citizenship so that his world-saving skills are not used against The United States (more about this here).
  • This was actually used by Magneto as a justification for most of his atrocities when he was brought to trial. Because his German nationality was revoked by the Nuremberg Laws, he argued that he was a state of one and was engaging in legitimate acts of war against aggressive foreign powers. Because he was not a citizen of any country (and therefore could not have broken any laws, as he was not subject to them), the International Court of Justice was forced to concede this stance and (after some typical Comic Book shenanigans) he was ultimately released after they determined that he had not violated the Geneva Convention and had, therefore, committed no war crimes (such as targeting civilians or mistreating prisoners of war, for example).


  • In The Terminal, Viktor Navorski's passport is no longer valid because of a revolution in Krakozhia, his fatherland.
  • In Atoll K, the last Laurel and Hardy film, Antoine is a stateless refugee aboard a boat and ends up citizen of "Crusoeland", an island found by the boat.
  • The Mariner from Waterworld has no nationality. Many characters in this film have only their boat as their "nation," since all nations as we know them have been submerged after the polar ice caps melted. The closest thing to nations in this universe are the Atoll, while it lasts, and Deacon's oar-powered supertanker.
  • In Casino Royale (2006), Le Chiffre's nationality is given as 'stateless' on the MI-6 file Bond is seen reading.
  • Count Dracula is welcome nowhere on Earth in Dracula 2000, because it's revealed that he's actually Judas Iscariot, sentenced to deathlessly Walking the Earth, forever hated, hounded and hunted.

     Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible. Naomi is this after the death of her husband, when she chooses to leave with Ruth. Ruth is returning to her homeland, although it's unclear whether she has any family left or would be welcome in her community. Although there were no legal statutes determining citizenship, someone without family members was essentially stateless. Jesus was effectively this for the first few years of his life, along with his parents Joseph and Mary although they were still within the borders of The Roman Empire (probably), so they were in some ways shielded from the usual consequences. This was due to the King in their homeland being Axe-Crazy.
  • The Iliad. Patroclus is this, having been exiled by his home city after committing murder. This is sort of the point, as Patroclus is the one person sympathetic to the problems of the ordinary Argive soldiers thanks to not having his own agenda. Namely that they are getting their butts kicked, without the leadership of Agamemnon and Achilles.


  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The Frank family, along with fellow Jews from German origin, were deprived from their German citizenship by Those Wacky Nazis.
  • In the world of William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy a lot of people have slipped through the cracks of society and lack a Single Identification Number (SIN), without one they can't vote, can't get a credit chip, so far as the government is concerned they don't exist.
  • In Casino Royale the villain flaunts his statelessness, claiming to have lost his memory during World War II and calling himself Le Chiffre or any other equivalents in other languages.
  • Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is suggested to have exiled himself from the world after an encounter with the forces occupying his country had devastating effects on his family.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance Lady Moira ghem Estif renounced her Cetagandan citizenship when she and her husband expatriated to Komarr in the wake of the disastrous invasion of Barrayar. Her husband took Komarran citizenship, and she had residency as his spouse. Since then, she has lived with House Cordonah on Jackson's Whole, and as a resident alien on Earth, but specifically calls out her status as someone who's been stateless for over a century.
    • Arguably, the many Houseless residents of Jackson's Whole (collectively referred to as Grubbers) would also count, as the Houses Major and Minor are effectively the governments of that planet, so anyone who hasn't got House allegiance/protection is effectively stateless.
  • Miriam meets several stateless persons along her aboard in Das Schiff ohne Hafen. Justified since many of them are fleeing Nazi Germany and the rest of Central Europe to go to Latin America.
  • The Arch Of Triumph of Erich Maria Remarque features Ravic, a skilled German surgeon who was stripped of his nationality by Those Wacky Nazis.
  • In the backstory of The Belgariad, the Ulgos (and the beasts who populate the region where they live) were the product of the gods screwing around with their creation powers. The god UL refused to let His children destroy those poor folks when they'd finished playing around with them, but the other gods refused to claim them, having already chosen their own followers, so those godless people were forced to wander around for centuries until finally the prophet Gorim convinced UL to take them in. Alas, when Gorim went to tell his fellow godless that they now had a new god, only a minority agreed accept UL and follow Gorim to their new home. The rest remained godless, and Gorim made them barren so that they'd all eventually die off; he considered this far more merciful than letting their race persist.
  • In Outlaw of Gor, the second book in the series, Tarl Cabot is returned to Gor and discovers that his city-state Ko-ro-ba has been destroyed by the Physical Gods of the world and no person from Ko-ro-ba may associate with any other; hence he is literally an outlaw, someone outside the law of any city-state. This situation remains until the end of the third book, at which point Korobans are allowed to rebuild their city.
  • Gerard Gales from The Death Ship lost his legal documentation and, as a result, is repeatedly deported and cannot find any legal work, apart from on the Yorikke, where he finds other seamen with the same issue as him and where the workers are treated as expendable assets.
  • In Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, the titular space trader explains that, after his first historic interstellar flight, he got quickly tired of resting on his laurels on Earth and decided to abscond with the ship that he flew, which was being claimed by three different owners after NASA's shutdown. He tricked them into loading the ship with food and drink (supposedly for a party) and then left orbit, proclaiming that he was renouncing his US citizenship and all property on Earth, thus becoming the first of the Space People. He later tells his new wife that, aboard the Circe, he is the absolute monarch with her as his queen. Anyone who visits the ship has to abide by his rules, even if the ship is orbiting a planet at the time. It's mentioned that it's possible for a citizen of a planet not to be allowed back after a sufficient time has passed and if strict immigration laws are in place to combat overpopulation. It's also common enough on many planets to disenfranchise people, removing their citizenship status. This usually applies to criminals, cult members, doom-sayers, and other undesirables.

     Tabletop Game  

  • Shadowrun borrowed the concept of SINs from Gibson, along with other things, and turns being SINless into an advantage, given the lifestyle of the typical Shadowrunner. Though fake SINs are also fairly easy to come by on the black market. And the two Matrix crashes wiped most SIN databases so there are quite a few people are stuck outside the system. The game treats being SINless as the "natural state" of a Shadowrunner as every Player Character starts Creation as SINless, with SINs as a disadvantage (you have to pay taxes, information about you are in the system and so on) with some advantages (you have an actual SIN you don't need to worry about being fake, and can easily use the advantages of the Government and Megacorps).
  • Similarly, Cyberpunk has the same concept of people locked outside the system.

     Video Game  

  • One Star Trek Online Foundry mission, "Crimes of the Many" by voporak, features a Starfish Alien prisoner at Facility 4028 who was arrested for drug smuggling and had his citizenship revoked by his home nation.
  • One can start the Dwarf Fortress Adventure mode as a Human Outsider, that is, in the wilderness, outside of any village or civilization.
  • Metal Gear: Lengendary soldier Big Boss became tired of states using and then discarding soldiers, so he worked to create a system where soldiers could live outside of any country's influence. There were several groups formed by Big Boss that follow this ideology, and this eventually lead to the creation of Outer Heaven.

     Real Life  

  • In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws decided Jews were no longer German citizens. Several Jews across Europe, intellectuals, philosophers, scientists and artists, including Hannah Arendt and the Frank family ended up victims of this order.
    • The Assassination of Nazi Ambassador Ernst vom Rath at the German Embassy in Paris was the result of these laws. A Polish Orthodox Jew named Hershel Grynzpan was stranded and destitute since he couldn't access his money in German bank accounts or have any means to contacting his relatives in Poland. After months of protest, he finally broke down and assassinated vom Rath and turned himself in. The Nazis used this as justification for the state pogrom of Kristallnacht.
    • Exiled opponents were also deprived of their German citizenship.
  • Soviet Union and other Communist countries deprived some dissidents of their citizenship before deporting them. For example, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Mstislav Rostropovitch.
    • The White Russians exiled after Red October did not have Soviet citizenship, for obvious reasons. This didn't stop the Allies from turning over White Russians who fought alongside the Germans to Stalin, along with the Soviet defectors. Of course their fate is obvious.
    • Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, born in 1922 in Cap d'Antibes, France, remained stateless until obtaining Italian nationality in 1988.
  • Sometimes conflicting nationality laws can do the trick.
    • Some countries ask for the renunciation to any previous nationality before the naturalization process is complete; while it can be only temporary, it could be a real concern when the decision is negative.
    • Strict application of jus soli (right by soil - you get citizenship by being born in that country - this rule is predominantly in the Americas) or jus sanguinis (right by blood - you get citizenship at birth if your parents were) can help too - depending on a country's exact rules gaps in coverage may form.
    • Children (either by birth or through parents' naturalization) with dual citizenship of two countries that do not allow multiple citizenship; they are excepted until they come of age, when they must choose one citizenship over another. Failure to renounce either, or forgot to follow through with paperwork proving they have renounced the other citizenship could lead to this.
    • Renouncing your nationality without having another one.note 
    • Simply being non-registered or being the child of a stateless person.note 
  • In 1945, the Formosans and Koreans residing in Japan were stripped of their Japanese nationality with the intent to give them the nationalities of their new countries. At the time of Japan's surrender there were about 2.4 million Koreans living in Japan; within a year most had left to return to (South) Korea, but issues rose when the Korean peninsula was divided - those still living in Japan had to choose between whether to affiliate with the pro-South Mindan or pro-North Chongryon. As Japan only recognizes the Republic of Korea in the South, those who had chosen to align with the North are effectively stateless since 2010 due to a South Korean court ruling them not to be citizens of the Republic of Korea.
  • Adolf Hitler was stateless from 1926 - when he renounced his Austrian nationality - to 1932, when he got the German one.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship in 1869 and remained stateless until his death. Likewise, Karl Marx, an exile and refugee living in London renounced his German citizenship after the end of the 1848 Revolutions.
  • Mehran Karimi Nasseri became effectively stateless in 1988 when his documents were stolen at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. He ended up living in the airport for the next 18 years since he could neither legally enter France nor be expelled (he had no country to return to) and was the inspiration for The Terminal.
  • Free French people were denaturalized by Vichy.
  • Albert Trop was deprived of his nationality in 1944 for deserting while in Morocco; he found this out when his request for a passport was denied. He then appealed and, in Trop v. Dulles, his denaturalization was reversed for being a cruel and unusual punishment. Since the US has the death penalty, this means the official position of SCOTUS is that statelessness is a Fate Worse than Death. The later Afroyim v. Rusk decision basically made it impossible for someone to lose US citizenship involuntarily for just about any reason (that case involved a naturalized citizen voting in an Israeli election).
  • In 1926, Fascist Italy denaturalized anyone found "unworthy of Italian nationality," i.e. exiled dissenters.
  • In September 2014, the Dominican Supreme Court declared anyone born to illegal migrants since 1929 didn't legally have Dominican citizenship. The reason given was that being a foreigner "in transit",note  which was restricted to people less than ten days, was broadened to people without legal permanent residence (see here), making 210,000 persons stateless.
  • Many Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian inhabitants of Estonia and Latvia aren't citizens of these countries but rather stateless, holding the status of "permanent residents," only allowing naturalization for those holding a correct level of fluency in the national language.
  • Since the Palestinian Authority is not technically a state and that few among them has any statenote  recognizing them as its nationals, around half of Palestinians are stateless.
  • Johnny Weissmuller, along with his family, and to the exception of his younger brother, born in Pennsylvania, were stateless when Austria-Hungary fell.
  • Bahrain has the habit to revoking the nationality of dissenters, as 72 people suffered in March 2015 for violation of the anti-terrorism statutes. Included among the real extremists were peaceful dissidents.
  • As of 2015, the Australian government is discussing cancelling the citizenship of people accused of terrorism. Osama bin Laden's Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1995 for his terrorist activities.
    • Making terrorists, or terrorist suspects, stateless is a huge problem and the real reason why Guantanamo Bay's Prison is such a nightmare to close. So...oops!
    • As of May 2016, the Dutch Parliament voted for the denaturalization of terrorists.
    • Although UK law does not allow that an individual is made stateless, female ISIS member Shamima Begum had her citizenship revoked in 2019 when declaring her desire to return. Bangladesh also preventivally stated she is ineligible for citizenship, since her parents are Bangladeshi and the law can allow children of Bangladeshi parents to become citizens themselves.
  • During The Apartheid Era, black South Africans were denaturalized and made "citizens" of Bantustans (the black puppet states set up by the government within South Africa, which no other country recognized). This caused great trouble to exiles such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had no valid passport. Arrangements were finally made for them by different governments.
  • Jean-Paul Alata, who was a Frenchman who became a friend of Ahmed Sékou Touré and consequently lost his French citizenship in 1962, subsequently lost his Guinean nationality after being secretly sentenced to life imprisonment on bogus charges during a purge, and was thus stateless.
  • From the birth of Romania and until 1921, only Christians could get Romanian nationality, leaving the local Jews stateless; a procedure was eventually introduced, but it required the consent of the legislature and was slow and cumbersome.
  • The approximately 1.3 million Rohingya people who live in Rakhine State of western Myanmar do not have Myanmar citizenship. They have been described as the world's least-wanted people group - Myanmar's government considers them foreign migrants from present-day Bangladesh (the views of ethnic Rakhines regarding Rohingya are on average considerably less kind)note  while already-overcrowded Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of shoving Rohingya that were originally living in Rakhine State onto them. It's gotten so bad for the Rohingya that in 2015 an estimated 25,000 took to boats to flee across Southeast Asia as far as the Philippines.
  • Three of the boys and the coach trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand in 2018 were revealed to be this trope. More specifically, the boys are refugees from a war-torn region in Myanmar while the coach trapped belongs to an ethnic group that the Thai government does not consider to be its citizens.


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