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UNHCR welcomes Turkmenistan's new law to ensure universal birth registration and prevent childhood statelessness

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UNHCR welcomes Turkmenistan's new law to ensure universal birth registration and prevent childhood statelessness

11 August 2020

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today welcomed Turkmenistan’s new Law on Civil Status Acts, which will ensure that all children born in the country – including those with undocumented parents – will have their births registered.

The law, which entered into force on 1 July 2020, will prevent childhood statelessness in the country.

Commenting on the measure, Yasuko Oda, UNHCR’s Representative for Central Asia, said:

“Turkmenistan’s long-standing commitment to addressing statelessness merits international recognition. The new legal provisions will prevent children from becoming stateless in the future. Measuring prevention is not easy, but it is as important as reduction. We appreciate the vision at the highest level in Turkmenistan to eradicate statelessness by 2024.”

Even though the official birth registration rate in Turkmenistan stands at 99.6 per cent, children born to undocumented persons and people with undetermined nationality were previously at risk of not having their births registered.

Birth registration is an important measure to prevent statelessness. While the lack of birth registration itself does not make children stateless, the absence of birth registration and a birth certificate can hamper the ability of people to prove their kinship and place of birth and therefore their entitlement to the nationality of any state.

The new law is the latest of several significant steps which Turkmenistan has taken to prevent and reduce statelessness in the country. It fulfills a commitment made by Turkmenistan at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness in October 2019, which brought together United Nations member states, civil society and other organizations.

In the last 15 years, approximately 23,000 refugees and stateless persons have been granted Turkmen nationality. They include some 10,000 stateless persons who have been naturalized since the country’s accession in 2011 to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

In the framework of UNHCR’s Global #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024, the Office has been working in close collaboration with the Government of Turkmenistan and other Central Asian states to address statelessness and prevent new cases from occurring.

Two Regional Conferences on Legal Identity and Prevention of Childhood Statelessness were organized by UNHCR for Central Asian countries in 2018 and 2019. These high-level meetings explored how birth registration could contribute to the prevention of statelessness in ensuring that no child is born stateless in Central Asia.

Statelessness affects millions of people around the world, often denying them access to basic rights and the official recognition that most people take for granted. According to available data, there are some 4.2 million stateless people in 76 countries around the world, though UNHCR estimates the actual extent of statelessness to be much higher.

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