Nations without Nationality – An ‘Unseen’ Stark Reality


Human Wrongs Watch

ROME, Nov 10 2017 (IPS) – Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations.

Born stateless, this baby acquired nationality in 2008 in Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/G.M.B. Akash

These millions of human beings are victims of continued discrimination, exclusion and persecution, states a UN refugee agency’s new report, calling for “immediate action” to secure equal nationality rights for all.

“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy. But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the launch of the report, This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship on the beginning of November.

This report explains the circumstances that have led to them not being recognised as citizens, drawing on discussions with four stateless or formerly stateless minority groups. The findings in this report underscore the critical need for minorities to enjoy the right to nationality.

“Imagine being told you don’t belong because of the language you speak, the faith you follow, the customs you practice or the colour of your skin. This is the stark reality for many of the world’s stateless. Discrimination, which can be the root cause of their lack of nationality, pervades their everyday lives – often with crippling effects,” says Grandi.

The report notes that more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. “Left unaddressed, their protracted marginalisation can build resentment, increase fear and, in the most extreme cases, lead to instability, insecurity and displacement.”

Even Before the Ongoing Rohingya Crisis

Based on research prior to late August when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya – the world’s “biggest stateless minority” – began fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the report reminds that their situation is nonetheless illustrative of the problems that years of discrimination, protracted exclusion and their impact on citizenship status can lead to.

“In recent years, important steps have been taken to address statelessness worldwide. However new challenges, like growing forced displacement and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, threaten this progress. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness,” Grandi stressed.

The report shows that, for many minority groups, the cause of statelessness is difference itself: their histories, their looks, their language, and their faith.

“At the same time, statelessness often exacerbates the exclusion that minority groups face, profoundly affecting all aspects of their life – from freedom of movement to development opportunities, and from access to services to the right to vote.”

What Statelessness Is All About

According to the UN, statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.

 

Fatmira Mustafa, a mother of four, collects rubbish from bins for a living. She has been anxiously waiting for the day when the owner of the plot on which her family is squatting will knock on her door to claim the land. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

“It creates a chasm between affected groups and the wider community, deepening their sense of being outsiders: of never belonging.”

In May and June 2017, UNHCR spoke with more than 120 individuals who belong to stateless or formerly stateless minority groups in three countries: the Karana of Madagascar, Roma and other ethnic minorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba and Makonde of Kenya. These are the key findings of UNHCR’s consultations:

Discrimination, Lack of Documentation

Discrimination and exclusion of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups often lies at the heart of their statelessness, adds UNHCR. At the same time, their statelessness can lead to further discrimination, both in in practice and in law: at least 20 countries maintain nationality laws in which nationality can be denied or deprived in a discriminatory manner.

“Discrimination against the stateless minorities consulted manifests itself most clearly in their attempts to access documentation needed to prove their nationality or their entitlement to nationality, such as a national ID card or a birth certificate.”

Lack of such documentary proof can result in a vicious circle, where authorities refuse to recognize an otherwise valid claim to nationality.

“The authorities told me that I had to go to Kosovo to get a certificate that I was not a citizen of Kosovo. But how could I travel there without documents?” asks Sutki Sokolovski, a 28-year-old ethnic Albanian man. His mother, who abandoned him as a child was from Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)), but he was born in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has lived there his entire life.

 

“I felt like I was a slave. Now I feel like I have been born again,” says 51-year-old Amina Kassim, a formerly stateless member of the Makonde community in Kenya. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold.

Poverty

The UN body explains that because of their statelessness and lack of documentation, the groups consulted are typically excluded from accessing legal or sustainable employment, or obtaining the kinds of loans or licenses that would allow them to make a decent living. This marginalisation can make it difficult for stateless minorities to escape an on-going cycle of poverty.

Examples among other testimonies included: “The biggest problem is the poverty caused by my statelessness. A stateless person cannot own property. I feel belittled and disgraced by the situation that I am in,” notes Shaame Hamisi, 55 from the stateless Pemba community in Kenya.

Fear

All the groups consulted spoke of their fear for their physical safety and security on account of being stateless. Being criminalized for a situation that they are unable to remedy has left psychological scars and a sense of vulnerability among many.

“They [police] know what we do, where we go. They ask for our IDs, when we say we don’t have any, we are arrested and beaten,” says Ajnur Demir, 26, from the Roma community from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Stateless Children

On this, a 3 November 2015 UN report – I am Here, I Belong: The Urgent Need to End Childhood Statelessness— had already warned in a report that stateless children across the world share the same feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair.

According to that report, urgent action is needed before statelessness “sets in stone” problems haunting their childhood.

“In the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair,” said the by then the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres and now UN Secretary General, adding that no child should be stateless.

“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.”

What future for them… and for humankind?

Any Solution?

Ensuring equal access to nationality rights for minority groups is one of the key goals of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this, UNHCR urges all States to take the following steps, in line with Actions 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 of UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness:

• Facilitate the naturalisation or confirmation of nationality for stateless minority groups resident on the territory provided that they were born or have resided there before a particular date, or have parents or grandparents who meet these criteria.

.
• Allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they were born if they would otherwise be stateless.
.
• Eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality on the basis of discriminatory grounds such as race, ethnicity, religion, or linguistic minority status.
• Ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.
.
• Eliminate procedural and practical obstacles to the issuance of nationality documentation to those entitled to it under law. SOURCE: UNHCR

——-

20171006_130222-1*Baher Kamal, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national secular journalist. He is founder and publisher of Human Wrongs Watch
.
Kamal is a pro-peace, non-violence, human rights, coexistence defender, with more than 45 years of professional experience.
.
With these issues in sight, he covered practically all professional posts, from correspondent to chief editor of dailies and international news agencies. 
.

Recent articles by Baher Kamal in Human Wrongs Watch:

Climate Change Summit a Step Further, Yes… But Where To?

The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?

Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Kill

What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?

Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Does

How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approach

The World Is Running Out of Much Needed New Antibiotics

To Be an Egyptian Migrant in Rome (and by the Way Make Great Pizza)

Poor Orphan Crops… So Valuable, So Neglected

Conflicts, Climate Shocks Causing New Famines, Severe Food Crisis

Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcy

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Europe, New Border of Africa’s ‘Great Desert’ – The Sahara

Climate-Smart Agriculture Urgently Needed in Africa

To Be a Nigerian Migrant in Italy

Forced Evictions, Rights Abuses of Maasai People in Tanzania Reported

Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groups

Can the Gender Gap Be Measured in Dollars Only?

Millions of Women and Children for Sale for Sex, Slavery, Organs…

Migrants – The Increasingly Expensive Deadly Voyages

Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Stories

Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’

Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edge

Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

More Plastic than Fish or How Politicians Help Ocean Destruction

The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse

Re-Connect with Nature Now… Before It Is Too Late!

The ‘Water-Employment-Migration’ Explosive Nexus

Asia: 260 Million Indigenous Peoples Marginalised, Discriminated

Mideast: Growing Urbanisation Worsens Water Scarcity, Food Imports

A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers

Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forests

Agony of Mother Earth (II) World’s Forests Depleted for Fuel

Who Are the Best ‘Eaters’ and How to Use Eggplants as a Toothbrush

African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya

The Very Survival of Africa’s Indigenous Peoples ‘Seriously Threatened’

20 Million People Could ‘Starve to Death’ in Next Six Months

Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?

Middle East, Engulfed by a ‘Perfect Storm’

Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis

ACP: One Billion People to Speak To Europe with One Voice

Did You Know that the Oceans Have It All?

The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africa

‘Humanity and Social Justice, a Must for the Future of Work’

Work, What Future? Seven Big Questions Needing Urgent Response

Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

Depressed? Let’s Talk

Slaves

Climate Breaks All Records: Hottest Year, Lowest Ice, Highest Sea Level

Read the Clouds!

Oh Happy Day!

New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable

The Indigenous ‘People of Wildlife’ Know How to Protect Nature

These Women Cannot Celebrate Their Day

Antarctic Ice Lowest Ever – Asia at High Risk – Africa Drying Up

UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Of Arabs and Muslims and the Big Ban

Every Year 700 Million People Fall Ill from Contaminated Food

A Dire Vacuum in a World in Crisis

Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: