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Who is Stateless and Where?

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© UNHCR / G.M.B. Akash

UNHCR estimates that at least 10 million people are stateless in dozens of developed and developing countries around the world, though the exact numbers are not known. They are to be found in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe and have been a group of concern to UNHCR since its founding.

Exclusionary policies are at the root of many statelessness situations. In the Middle East and other parts of the world gender-discriminatory legislation continues to create risks of statelessness. In many of the Gulf States, populations who were left out at independence are now referred to as Bidoon, literally "without" in Arabic. Under the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, many Feili Kurds were stripped of their nationality, but this decree was repealed in 2006.

In Africa, some of the Nubian people do not enjoy citizenship rights in Kenya. And across the continent, lack of clarity on their nationality status affects large numbers of people in Côte d'Ivoire. In Europe, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav Federation in the 1990s led to statelessness in the new countries that emerged. The problem of state succession in both cases was compounded by large population and refugee movements. Efforts to naturalize these people and to issue nationality documentation are under way, but the situations are not yet fully resolved.

Statelessness is also an issue of UNHCR concern in the Caribbean.

There have been some success stories in recent years in Asia, where millions have received nationality in Bangladesh and Nepal. But even though Nepal achieved in 2007 the largest reduction of statelessness the world has seen, the Himalayan nation still hosts about 800,000 people whose nationality is not confirmed and who cannot access important government services without a citizenship certificate.

Protracted Statelessness Situations

In many countries, statelessness situations have gone unresolved for decades - they have become "protracted."

Regional Expert Meetings

Examining the rights of stateless people in different regions.

UN Conventions on Statelessness

The two UN statelessness conventions are the key legal instruments in the protection of stateless people around the world.

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UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database

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Statelessness: Forced Migration Review, Issue 32

This issue of FMR includes 22 articles by academic, international and local actors debating the challenges faced by stateless people and the search for appropriate responses and solutions. (external link)