Geneva, 4 November 2023 (TDI): In 2023, significant global progress has been made in addressing the issue of statelessness, according to a report from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, marking the 9th anniversary of its decade-long “I Belong” campaign.
Notable developments include the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Moldova, which introduced legislative measures to prevent statelessness at birth.
Portugal passed a legal framework that regulates statelessness status and establishes a statelessness determination procedure.
North Macedonia amended its laws to enable stateless individuals to acquire nationality and ensure birth registration for all children, regardless of their parents’ documentation status.
The Republic of the Congo joined the Statelessness Conventions, becoming the latest country to do so.
Additionally, Kenya confirmed approximately 7,000 stateless people from the Pemba community as Kenyan citizens in 2023. In Zanzibar, Tanzania, over 3,000 individuals at risk of statelessness were granted nationality.
Now, a total of 97 countries are parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and 79 to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Many countries have implemented legal safeguards to prevent statelessness or established procedures to protect stateless individuals.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, acknowledged the positive progress in combating statelessness but stressed that more needs to be done, especially with the increasing global forced displacement.
Millions of individuals continue to be marginalized and deprived of their basic human rights, highlighting the need for further action.
As of the available data, at least 4.4 million people in 95 countries are reported to be stateless or of undetermined nationality, with the actual global figure likely to be higher due to the difficulty in tracking stateless individuals in national statistics.
Stateless people, who are not recognized as citizens of any country, often face severe limitations in accessing essential services and human rights, leaving them politically and economically marginalized and vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse.
A significant portion of stateless individuals belong to minority groups, compounding the discrimination and marginalization they already experience.
The report calls for immediate action by states worldwide to address statelessness, emphasizing that many cases can be resolved through legislative and policy changes.
The report also notes that gender equality in nationality laws is crucial to preventing statelessness.
While significant progress has been made since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, there are still 25 countries where men and women do not have equal rights regarding the conferring of nationality upon their children.
These countries are spread across different regions, including the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas.
It is important to note that, in some cases, equality is granted for the nationality of children but not for the acquisition, change, or retention of nationality upon changes in civil status.