UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres urges a united response to end statelessness
New York, November 3 2015
Speaking at an event to launch UNHCR’s new report on the effects of Childhood Statelessness ‘I am here I belong’ in New York, High Commissioner António Guterres once again urged the world to unite to end statelessness.
“The most vulnerable victims of this situation are children. The objective of this kind of discrimination is to make them non-beings, to make them disappear. We must make sure there is a very strong commitment to make the world more humane world and end childhood statelessness.”
The new UNHCR study – which draws on interviews with more than 250 children and youngsters, their parents and guardians in seven countries – found that they shared similar feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair, creating problems that can endure into adulthood. One of the young men featured in the report – Jirair Chichian – also spoke at the event.
A talented wrestler, Chichian was given the chance to compete internationally but was not allowed because he did not have a passport or nationality. “It was so painful for me”, he said, commenting on the moment he was told he could not compete. “I was speechless and could not tell him how I felt. At that moment, I felt like a bird without wings.”
With help from UNHCR he received his first travel document and will be eligible for Georgian citizenship in five years. Speaking about how it finally felt to have formal identification he said:
“Holding this document in my hand and standing in front of you today, it feels like when my coach raises my hand after winning a competition. Now instead of my coach”, he continued, “you are taking my hand, and I am counting this as a life win for me.”
The event was moderated by staunch supporter of the #IBelong campaign UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, and featured contributions from the Government of Brazil and The Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Mr. Benyam Mezmur. It was co-sponsored by co-sponsored by the governments of Brazil, Cote D’Ivoire, Italy, Thailand, Germany and the United States of America.