It is expected that the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure in Ukraine will ensure better identification and protection of stateless populations.
Today, representatives of UNHCR and of various ministries and state agencies of the government of Ukraine, members of Parliament, as well as representatives from the international community and the civil society gathered in Kyiv to mark the 4th Anniversary of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024.
Eradicating statelessness and achieving the ultimate goal of this Campaign requires raising awareness of statelessness itself, which unfortunately remains a relatively obscure problem compared to the situation of refugees. In simple terms, a stateless person is someone who does not have the nationality of any country and therefore cannot cannot access and exercise his or her most basic human rights. It is a man-made problem and is relatively easy to resolve and prevent, provided that there is the necessary political will and public support.
UNHCR’s statelessness mandate covers all situations of statelessness. When refugee status ceases, individuals may remain stateless and therefore of concern to UNHCR. In addition, UNHCR’s statelessness mandate may also apply to individuals who are internally displaced.
It is estimated that at least 10 million people worldwide are stateless, with children representing approximately one third of them. Even if difficult to determine, UNHCR estimates that the number of stateless persons or populations at risk of statelessness in Ukraine could be up to 75 000 and includes representatives of ethnic minorities, such as the Roma, but also older people still holding Soviet passports, and homeless persons and persons released from penitentiaries.
This figure also comprises an increased number of persons at risk of statelessness, notably because the Government of Ukraine does not automatically recognize the birth certificates issued in these territories.
“Without birth certificate, these children will not benefit from any state support at birth but will also have difficulties registering in kindergarten or school, visiting a hospital and, when becoming adults, get officially employed or marry. Ukraine took the first steps toward establishing an administrative procedure for birth registration of children born in NGCA. By-laws providing details on the modalities for how the administrative procedure will work must now be adopted to effectively reduce the risk of statelessness. – said Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine.
UNHCR will continue to support the Government of Ukraine in addressing the causes of statelessness and facilitating acquisition of nationality, through legislative changes and procedural improvements, thus preventing and reducing statelessness in the country. It is also expected that the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure in Ukraine, a procedure for determining whether an individual is stateless or entitled to Ukrainian citizenship, will ensure better identification and protection of stateless populations. The introduction of such a procedure corresponds to Ukraine’s legal obligations after it acceded to the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions in 2013. The impact of such legislative changes cannot be underestimated and being equipped with proper legislation will make the goal of the Campaign appear more realistic.
In line with its mandate, since 2017 UNHCR cooperates with NGOs NEEKA, Right to Protection (R2P), and Tenth of April in the field of statelessness in Ukraine, providing support to persons of concern, conducting advocacy, and policy development. From June 2017 to 30 Sep 2018, UNHCR partners identified and provided legal aid to 1,235 stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Zakarpattya regions. This project is conducted in close cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, the SMS, the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, courts, the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision, as well and civil society organizations to help stateless people or those under risk of statelessness.
For more information read an info bulletin on Statelessness in Ukraine.