More action is needed to resolve the plight of millions around the world who are still without citizenship, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, urged today as it marked seven years since the launch of its #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
“Significant progress has been made over the past few years, but governments must do more to close the legal and policy gaps that continue to leave millions of people stateless or allow children to be born into statelessness,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Statelessness, or the situation of not being recognized as a citizen by any country, affects millions of people around the world. Stateless people often cannot access the most basic of rights, including being able to go to school, work legally, access health services, marry, or register the birth of a child.
Since UNHCR launched its #IBelong campaign in 2014 to raise attention and advocate for an end to global statelessness, more than 400,000 stateless people in 27 countries have acquired nationality, while tens of thousands of people across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas now have a pathway to citizenship as a result of newly enacted legislative changes.
Over the past seven years, 29 states have acceded to the Statelessness Conventions, signaling strengthened political will to end statelessness.
“We are encouraged by this global momentum to tackle statelessness, which with concerted efforts by States, we can eradicate. But unless progress accelerates, the millions who remain deprived of a nationality will be stuck in a human rights limbo, unable to access the most basic rights,” said Grandi.
The Philippines is one of the State Parties to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and is the first Southeast Asian country to adopt international legal standards to keep stateless people from falling into legal limbo. In line with its commitments to the #IBelong campaign, the Philippine Government has launched the National Action Plan (NAP) to End Statelessness by 2024, which seeks to resolve existing cases of statelessness, ensure that no child is born stateless, and ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness among other targets.
Statelessness has many causes which are typically the result of gaps or flaws in nationality laws and how they are implemented. The Philippine Government has identified five groups considered at risk of statelessness, including unregistered children in displacement context due to armed conflict, foundlings, children of Filipino descent in migration situations (for example, in the Middle East and Sabah), persons of Indonesian descent (PIDs), and the Sama Bajau population.
UNHCR Philippines has supported the Government, led by the Department of Justice, in several measures to address the risk of statelessness among these vulnerable populations in the country, including the mapping and resolution of the citizenship issues of PIDs, policy advocacies for foundlings, and birth registration initiatives for the Sama Bajau population in Zamboanga City and Bongao,Tawi-Tawi.
Governments hold power to enact legal and policy reforms that can help stateless people in their territory acquire citizenship or prevent statelessness from occurring in the first place.,
Because they are not recognized as citizens, stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness may be deprived of legal rights or basic services. This leaves them politically and economically marginalized and vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse. They may also not be able to access COVID-19 testing, treatment or vaccination, and may have little access to support or protection in the face of climate risks.
It remains an easily avoidable issue that can be solved, sometimes with the stroke of a pen, or a relatively simple legal change.
UNHCR’s decade long #IBelong campaign calls on states to end statelessness by 2024.
Background notes for editors:
Worldwide, UNHCR’s statistical reporting counts 4.2 million stateless people in some 94 countries. Given that most countries do not collect any data on statelessness, the actual figure is believed to be substantially higher.
To date, 96 States are party to the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, and 77 are party to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Since the start of the #IBelong Campaign:
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