UNHCR’s ‘I Belong’ campaign seeks to end statelessness within decade 


Nov 4: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Tuesday, launched a campaign to end statelessness in a decade.

According to the UN refugee agency, approximately 10 million people are living without citizenship across the World and every 10 minutes a child is born stateless. “Legally, stateless people do not exist, they don’t have an identity, no birth certificate and no documents. This, denies them access to public facilities like health, education and legal employment,” the report said.The report further states that in a few countries, the stateless, are not even granted a death certificate upon their demise. They, simply just do not exist. Nearly 10 million people across the World are unaccounted for and have no access to basic rights, freedom and facilities.

Therefore, UNHCR’s“I Belong” campaign aims to lift the stateless out of the legal limbo in which they live, because they  are deprived of all their rights as citizens. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie over 30 celebrities and World opinion leaders today published an Open Letter, saying that 60 years after the United Nations first agreed to protect stateless people, “now it’s time to end statelessness itself.” The open letter states that, “Statelessness is inhuman.We believe it is time to end this injustice.”

Acclaimed actress ,director and UNHCR’s special envoy, Jolie said that being stateless meant adults and their children having no legal identity, no passport, no vote, and few or no opportunities to get an education. “Ending statelessness would right these terrible wrongs. But it would also strengthen society in countries where stateless people are found, by making it possible to draw on their energy and talents. It is both an obligation and an opportunity for governments everywhere to put an end to this exclusion,” she said.

According to experts, the reason there is a large population of people without citizenships is because of the growing tensions around the World and the failure of governments to recognise people as citizens. Experts state that most of the times  it is a direct result of ethnic, religious and gender-based discrimination. For instance, the children of Syrian refugees born in Jordan and other countries, muslim minority in Myanmar are not recognised as citizens in the country they live in.

 UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, has stated that there are a number of factors that lead to  statelessness. “The most well-known and well-discussed case in the World is the Rohingyas in Myanmar with more than 1 million people, without citizenship,” he said.

According to him, in Myanmar, the Rohingyas community are considered illegal migrants from Bangladesh.” But, even if they go to Bangladesh, they will be still considered as illegal migrants from Myanmar, which means that the overwhelming majority of the Rohingyas have no rights, no citizenship at all,” he added.

The UNHCR’s report also states that there are  27 countries in which, women are not allowed to pass down their nationality to their kids, which has led to generations of stateless people. she said.“Statelessness is an anomaly of the 21 century, and we need to do our best to solve it,” said Guterres, who further informed that the had first UN  pledged to tackle the issue after the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

The Oslo Times

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