Côte d'Ivoire becomes latest country to accede to statelessness conventions

Briefing Notes, 4 October 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 October 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday (Thursday), Côte d'Ivoire acceded to the international conventions on statelessness. This is one of key measures the government is taking to reduce the number of stateless people in the country.

An estimated 700,000 people in Cote d'Ivoire are currently stateless or lack documentation to prove their nationality. As a result, they cannot access services such as education and healthcare. Many of the stateless are children whose births were never registered and often they are unable to enrol in school.

UNHCR welcomes the accession by Cote d'Ivoire and its commitment to the protection of the fundamental right to nationality. For decades, proof of Ivoirian citizenship has been a controversial socio-political issue. The right to land titles was particularly contentious, sometimes leading to communal conflict.

The government is now working to clarify thousands of cases of individuals of undetermined nationality. It recently approved a reform of the nationality law which will allow stateless people and others born in the country to apply for citizenship if they have resided there for decades.

Côte d'Ivoire is the 20th State to accede to one or both stateless conventions since 2011 when UNHCR began a campaign to promote these legal instruments. The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons sets out the rights of stateless people and now has 79 States parties. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness establishes safeguards to prevent statelessness which are to be included in each country's nationality law. It has 54 States parties.

For information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
  • In Côte d'Ivoire, Lara Palmisano, on mobile + 225 06 94 13 04
  • In Senegal, Kathryn Mahoney, on mobile + 221 777 408 666
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New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Arrival at Bahn CampPlay video

Liberia: Arrival at Bahn Camp

UNHCR has opened a new camp for up to 15,000 Ivorian refugees at Bahn in eastern Liberia. Follow the arrival of the first group.