"Nationality is an individual’s link to benefits under international law." Critically discuss.

Nationality is the bond that links an individual to his State and this link is of paramount significance for the purposes of international law. Primarily, international law is a legal system that applies to States; individuals do not generally have any standing in their own right. 


This means that if a state violates its international legal obligations thus resulting in harm to an individual who doesn’t possess the nationality of that state, that individual will not have the necessary locus standi to pursue a claim against that particular state under International law. The only exception can be made in case of human rights treaties – because they incorporate methods of “individuals” complaint mechanisms. However, because this mechanism requires the consent of States to apply and because they do not result in legal proceedings, their impact on the rights of aliens is limited. 

What this means is that if a State violates its international legal obligations and thereby causes harm to an individual who is not in fact a national of that State, that individual will not have the necessary locus standi to pursue a claim against that State under international law. Some human rights treaties may be considered exceptions to this rule because they incorporate methods of individuals’ complaint mechanisms. However, since these mechanisms often require the consent of States to apply and because they do not result in legal proceedings, their impact on the rights of aliens is limited.

But the above doesn’t restrict the State from pursuing a claim under international law on behalf of its nationals. Even where the injury of loss was caused by the individual of one State to the national of another, the matter may be converted into a dispute under international law by the States to which the individuals belong.  The right to protect their own national does not extend only to disputes and it also includes the right to seek the protection of their nationals when those nationals travel abroad. Also, it is to be mentioned that these nationals have the right to contact their States’ diplomatic missions and ask for protection. Moreover, nationals also have an unfettered right to be able to return to their home country at any time.

On the other hand, an individual who has no nationality or loses his nationality, becomes an alien in every country. The State he is present in may offer him less protection than its own citizens.  Also, that individual could be prohibited from owning any property.  Furthermore, the alien will not have the right to travel abroad as he will not hold a passport. It has to be stressed that the State he is living in may allow him to continue to do so but it will be on the lines of a foreigner. Substantially, without a nationality, an individual becomes a foreigner in every State that he goes to. It is obvious that he will not be afforded protection by any diplomatic mission and no other State can legally intercede on their behalf. Hence, it is obvious that nationality is an individual’s link to benefits under international law. 

While not having a nationality is an important disadvantage and stateless individuals often have a lot of difficulty wherever they go, one must remember that a State is under no duty to protect its citizens.  Hence, it might be the case that a State ignores the fate of a national who travels abroad and runs into difficulties with his host State. 


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