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UNHCR reports steady progress on tackling statelessness

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UNHCR reports steady progress on tackling statelessness

4 November 2023
Kenya. Statelessness

Laila Rashidi, a 48-year-old mother of 10 from the Pemba community collects a birth certificate for her 5-year-old son. "I am overjoyed to finally have this document. As my son grows up he will be able to get the education he needs and he can eventually get a passport to travel the world."

Marking the 9th anniversary of its decade-long #IBelong campaign, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reports today that important results have been achieved worldwide this year to help resolve the devastating phenomena of statelessness. 


Since the beginning of its global campaign which commenced in 2014, more than half a million stateless people have acquired or had their nationality confirmed and tens of thousands of people across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas now have a pathway to citizenship as a result of legislative changes. 

This year alone in the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region, around 3,300 individuals at risk of statelessness were granted nationality in Zanzibar, Tanzania, while in Kenya, approximately 7,000 people from the Pemba community were officially confirmed as citizens.

In total, 97 countries are now party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and 79 to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Dozens of countries have also introduced safeguards in their laws to prevent statelessness or established procedures to protect stateless people. 


“The progress made in combatting statelessness is positive and we commend states for taking action. But it is not enough.  With rising global forced displacement, millions are being left on the margins, deprived of their basic human rights, including participating in and contributing to society. This exclusion is unjust and must be addressed,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.  


While many countries have made great efforts to address this glaring human rights violation, many others still lag behind. In this region, many of the more than 55 pledges made by Member States of the International Conference Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) during a High-Level Segment on Statelessness at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum remain in progress. UNHCR is urging governments to fulfill their statelessness commitments and to take action to ensure no-one is left behind.  


According to UNHCR’s 2022 Global Trends report, over 103,000 stateless persons live in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda. However, these figures are expected to be significantly higher given the relative invisibility of stateless people in national statistical exercises. 


Not recognized as citizens of any country, stateless people are often deprived of human rights and access to basic services, often leaving them politically and economically marginalized and vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse. A disproportionate number of the world’s stateless people are members of minority groups, for which statelessness tends to perpetuate and worsen the discrimination and marginalization they already face.


Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan and Tanzania host over 4 million refugees, of whom the vast majority have spent from five to over 20 years in their country of asylum and are at risk of becoming stateless.


“Though statelessness has many causes, it can easily be resolved through simple legislative and policy changes. I call upon states worldwide to take immediate action and help end this grave human rights violation,” said Grandi.




For more information:


(In Nairobi) Faith Kasina, UNHCR, [email protected] +254 113 427 094