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Conclusion on Identification, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and Protection of Stateless Persons
No. 106 (LVII) - 2006

EXCOM Conclusions, 6 October 2006

The Executive Committee,

Remaining deeply concerned with the persistence of statelessness problems in various regions of the world and the emergence of new situations of statelessness,

Recognizing the right of States to establish laws governing the acquisition, renunciation or loss of nationality and noting that the issue of statelessness is already under consideration by the United Nations General Assembly within the broad issue of State succession,1

Expressing concern at the serious and precarious conditions faced by many stateless persons, which can include the absence of a legal identity and non-enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as a result of non-access to education; limited freedom of movement; situations of prolonged detention; inability to seek employment; non-access to property ownership; non-access to basic health care,

Noting that despite some progress, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness have only been ratified or acceded to by a limited number of States, sixty and thirty-two States respectively,

Recalling the right of every person to a nationality and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's nationality as enunciated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and referenced in human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and they are entitled to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind,

Reaffirming the responsibilities given to the High Commissioner by the United Nations General Assembly to contribute to the prevention and reduction of statelessness and to further the protection of stateless persons,

Recalling its Conclusion No 78 (XLVI) on the prevention and reduction of statelessness and protection of stateless persons as well as Conclusions 90 (LII), 95 (LIV), 96 (LIV), and Conclusions 99 (LV) and 102 (LVI) with regard to solving protracted statelessness situations,

(a) Urges UNHCR, in cooperation with governments, other United Nations and international as well as relevant regional and non-governmental organizations, to strengthen its efforts in this domain by pursuing targeted activities to support the identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness and to further the protection of stateless persons;

Identification of Statelessness

(b) Calls on UNHCR to continue to work with interested Governments to engage in or to renew efforts to identify stateless populations and populations with undetermined nationality residing in their territory, in cooperation with other United Nations agencies, in particular UNICEF and UNFPA as well as DPA, OHCHR and UNDP within the framework of national programmes, which may include, as appropriate, processes linked to birth registration and updating of population data;

(c) Encourages UNHCR to undertake and share research, particularly in the regions where little research is done on statelessness, with relevant academic institutions or experts, and governments, so as to promote increased understanding of the nature and scope of the problem of statelessness, to identify stateless populations and to understand reasons which led to statelessness, all of which would serve as a basis for crafting strategies to addressing the problem;

(d) Encourages those States which are in possession of statistics on stateless persons or individuals with undetermined nationality to share those statistics with UNHCR and calls on UNHCR to establish a more formal, systematic methodology for information gathering, updating, and sharing;

(e) Encourages UNHCR to include in its biennial reports on activities related to stateless persons to the Executive Committee, statistics provided by States and research undertaken by academic institutions and experts, civil society and its own staff in the field on the magnitude of statelessness;

(f) Encourages UNHCR to continue to provide technical advice and operational support to States, and to promote an understanding of the problem of statelessness, also serving to facilitate the dialogue between interested States at the global and regional levels;

(g) Takes note of the cooperation established with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in the field of nationality and statelessness, and notes further the 2005 Nationality and Statelessness Handbook for Parliamentarians which is being used in national and regional parliaments to raise awareness and build capacity among State administrations and civil society;

Prevention of Statelessness

(h) Calls on States to facilitate birth registration and issuance of birth or other appropriate certificates as a means to providing an identity to children and where necessary and when relevant, to do so with the assistance of UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNFPA;

(i) Encourages States to consider examining their nationality laws and other relevant legislation with a view to adopting and implementing safeguards, consistent with fundamental principles of international law, to prevent the occurrence of statelessness which results from arbitrary denial or deprivation of nationality; and requests UNHCR to continue to provide technical advice in this regard;

(j) Notes that statelessness may arise as a result of restrictions applied to parents in passing on nationality to their children; denial of a woman's ability to pass on nationality; renunciation without having secured another nationality; automatic loss of citizenship from prolonged residence abroad; deprivation of nationality owing to failure to perform military or alternative civil service; loss of nationality due to a person's marriage to an alien or due to a change in nationality of a spouse during marriage; and deprivation of nationality resulting from discriminatory practices; and requests UNHCR to continue to provide technical advice in this regard;

(k) Stresses that in the event of State succession, the concerned States put in place appropriate measures to prevent statelessness situations from arising as a result and take action to address such situations;

(l) Encourages States to seek appropriate solutions for persons who have no genuine travel or other identity documents, including migrants and those who have been smuggled or trafficked, and where necessary and as appropriate, for the relevant States to cooperate with each other in verifying their nationality status, while fully respecting the international human rights of these individuals as well as relevant national laws;

(m) Calls upon States Parties to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, both supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to respect their obligation to assist in verifying the nationality of the persons referred to them who have been smuggled or trafficked with a view to issuing travel and identity documents and facilitating the return of such persons; and, encourages other States to provide similar assistance;

Reduction of Statelessness

(n) Encourages States to give consideration to acceding to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and, in regard to States Parties, to consider lifting reservations;

(o) Encourages UNHCR to reinforce its cooperation with other relevant United Nations agencies to assist States to reduce statelessness, particularly in protracted statelessness situations;

(p) Encourages States, where appropriate and while taking note of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/129 of 2005, to consider measures to allow the integration of persons in situations of protracted statelessness, through developing programmes in the field of education, housing, access to health and income generation, in partnership with relevant United Nations agencies;

(q) Encourages States to safeguard the right of every child to acquire a nationality, particularly where the child might otherwise be stateless, bearing in mind Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and further encourages UNHCR to cooperate with UNICEF and UNFPA to provide technical and operational support to this end;

(r) Encourages States to actively disseminate information regarding access to citizenship, including naturalization procedures, through the organization of citizenship information campaigns with the support of UNHCR, as appropriate;

Protection of Stateless Persons

(s) Encourages States to give consideration to acceding to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and, in regard to States Parties, to consider lifting reservations;

(t) Requests UNHCR to actively disseminate information and, where appropriate, train government counterparts on appropriate mechanisms for identifying, recording, and granting a status to stateless persons;

(u) Encourages States which are not yet Parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons to treat stateless persons lawfully residing on their territory in accordance with international human rights law; and to consider, as appropriate, facilitating the naturalization of habitually and lawfully residing stateless persons in accordance with national legislation;

(v) Encourages UNHCR to implement programmes, at the request of concerned States, which contribute to protecting and assisting stateless persons, in particular by assisting stateless persons to access legal remedies to redress their stateless situation and in this context, to work with NGOs in providing legal counselling and other assistance as appropriate;

(w) Calls on States not to detain stateless persons on the sole basis of their being stateless and to treat them in accordance with international human rights law and also calls on States Parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons to fully implement its provisions;

(x) Requests UNHCR to further improve the training of its own staff and those of other United Nations agencies on issues relating to statelessness to enable UNHCR to provide technical advice to States Parties on the implementation of the 1954 Convention so as to ensure consistent implementation of its provisions.

1 Resolution 55/153 of 2000, Nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States.




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Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

Two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, thousands of people in former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan are still facing problems with citizenship. UNHCR has identified more than 20,000 stateless people in the Central Asian nation. These people are not considered as nationals under the laws of any country. While many in principle fall under the Kyrgyz citizenship law, they have not been confirmed as nationals under the existing procedures.

Most of the stateless people in Kyrgyzstan have lived there for many years, have close family links in the country and are culturally and socially well-integrated. But because they lack citizenship documents, these folk are often unable to do the things that most people take for granted, including registering a marriage or the birth of a child, travelling within Kyrgyzstan and overseas, receiving pensions or social allowances or owning property. The stateless are more vulnerable to economic hardship, prone to higher unemployment and do not enjoy full access to education and medical services.

Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken many positive steps to reduce and prevent statelessness. And UNHCR, under its statelessness mandate, has been assisting the country by providing advice on legislation and practices as well as giving technical assistance to those charged with solving citizenship problems. The refugee agency's NGO partners provide legal counselling to stateless people and assist them in their applications for citizenship.

However, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan is complex and thousands of people, mainly women and children, still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles when seeking to confirm or acquire citizenship. In 2009, with the encouragement of UNHCR, the government adopted a national action plan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In 2011, the refugee agency will help revise the plan and take concrete steps to implement it. A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed so that statelessness does not become a lingering problem for future generations.

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Stateless in Beirut

Since Lebanon was established as a country in the 1920s there has been a long-standing stateless population in the country.

There are three main causes for this: the exclusion of certain persons from the latest national census of 1932; legal gaps which deny nationality to some group of individuals; and administrative hurdles that prevent parents from providing proof of the right to citizenship of their newborn children.

Furthermore, a major reason why this situation continues is that under Lebanese law, Lebanese women cannot pass on their nationality to their children, only men can; meaning a child with a stateless father and a Lebanese mother will inherit their father's statelessness.

Although exact numbers are not known, it is generally accepted that many thousands of people lack a recognized nationality in Lebanon and the problem is growing due to the conflict in Syria. Over 50,000 Syrian children have been born in Lebanon since the beginning of the conflict and with over 1 million Syrian refugees in the country this number will increase.

Registering a birth in Lebanon is very complicated and for Syrian parents can include up to five separate administrative steps, including direct contact with the Syrian government. As the first step in establishing a legal identity, failure to properly register a child's birth puts him or her at risk of statelessness and could prevent them travelling with their parents back to Syria one day.

The consequences of being stateless are devastating. Stateless people cannot obtain official identity documents, marriages are not registered and can pass their statelessness on to their children Stateless people are denied access to public healthcare facilities at the same conditions as Lebanese nationals and are unable to own or to inherit property. Without documents they are unable to legally take jobs in public administrations and benefit from social security.

Children can be prevented from enrolling in public schools and are excluded from state exams. Even when they can afford a private education, they are often unable to obtain official certification.

Stateless people are not entitled to passports so cannot travel abroad. Even movement within Lebanon is curtailed, as without documents they risk being detained for being in the country unlawfully. They also do not enjoy basic political rights as voting or running for public office.

This is the story of Walid Sheikhmouss Hussein and his family from Beirut.

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