The World’s Stateless
A stateless person is a person that is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law. A person who, does not enjoy the legal bond of nationality with any state and a non-national in every country in the world. There is no link between an individual and any state therefore a person does not have a citizenship or nationality. There is an estimated 12 million stateless people in the world and they are hidden and forgotten by society. Without nationality, stateless people cannot live a normal life. They are deprived of identity and human rights; they have no access to education, health care and social support.
Statelessness may be caused by discrimination based on race, religion or sex. The state of their habitual residence may have refused to recognize them as citizens and it’s been handed down from generation to generation. Another cause is the conflict of nationality laws, although some states award citizenship to children born when one parent is a national, many children cannot carry their mother’s nationality and will leave them stateless in case the father is stateless. Recent changes in this issue have been made in some countries. In some cases, the result of state succession, the state no longer exists and they live under the control of another state. There are also rare cases of statelessness when a person renounces their citizenship or if a person lives in a non- state territory.
The 1954 Statelessness Status Convention was adopted to provide protection of stateless people. According to Article 27:
“THE CONTRACTING STATES SHALL ISSUE IDENTITY PAPERS TO ANY STATELESS PERSON IN THEIR TERRITORY WHO DOES NOT POSSESS A VALID TRAVEL DOCUMENT.”
After seven years, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness was adopted, which contains provisions to prevent and reduce statelessness. UNHCR also introduced a three-pronged approach to break the cycle of statelessness to ensure that children of stateless people acquire nationality, promotes their integration into the society and raise public awareness in statelessness and its consequences to achieve necessary changes.
This issue emphasized the importance of nationality or citizenship, thus belonging to a state can impact a person’s life and their way of living from one generation to the next. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Everyone has the right to nationality.”
Both the 1954 and 1961 Convention have important provisions for the protection and human rights of stateless people and contains important measures to avoid statelessness and give nationality to future generation born of stateless parents. Every person need a nationality and every child born of stateless parent absolutely requires nationality if we want to stop this cycle and promote individual’s rights and liberty to live with dignity.
Mary Jone Causing Buchholtz