UNHCR hails Belize's accession to 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

Press report on Belize

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) welcomes Belize's landmark decision to join the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the second accession by a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state and a strong example for the region.

"UNHCR hopes to see the Americas as the first continent to end statelessness and Belize's accession is a step in the right direction," said Renata Dubini, Director of UNHCR's Americas Bureau. The Convention will enter into force for Belize on 12 November 2015.

"This decision, along with reactivating its Refugee Eligibility Committee earlier this year, are excellent signs that Belize is emerging as a regional champion on international protection," said Shelly Pitterman, Regional Representative of UNHCR.

The 1961 Convention, which with Belize will have 64 states parties, provides concrete and detailed safeguards that states parties must implement through their nationality legislation to prevent and reduce statelessness. Jamaica became the first CARICOM state to accede to the 1961 Convention in 2013. Belize was already party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, along with four other Caribbean states and territories (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago).

At least 10 million people worldwide are currently stateless and a child is born stateless every 10 minutes. Without a nationality, they are often denied basic rights and services normally afforded to citizens, such as access to healthcare and education.

In November 2014, UNHCR launched a global campaign to eradicate statelessness in 10 years and in consultation with States, civil society and international organizations developed a Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014-2024.

In December 2014, 28 countries and three territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Belize, adopted the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action. Chapter six of the Brazil Plan of Action identifies the actions required to eradicate statelessness in the Americas, including accession, as appropriate, to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Belize to implement the Brazil Plan of Action and find regional solutions to statelessness and other protection challenges facing the Caribbean," added Pitterman.

For further information: Brian Hansford +1 202 243 7623