Stateless Persons

The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have the nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless later in life.

Stateless people are found in all regions of the world. The majority of stateless people were born in the countries in which they have lived their entire lives. Today millions of people around the world are denied a nationality. As a result, they often aren’t allowed to go to school, see a doctor, get a job, open a bank account, buy a house or even get married.

The exact number of stateless people is not known, but UNHCR estimates that there are many millions globally – of which approximately one third are children.

The photo shows the mural “Little Citizen”, which was opened by UNHCR in Kyiv as part of the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the global campaign to eradicate statelessness.

The mural can be found at: 11, Yaroslavskaya Str.

This month we mark the 6th anniversary of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness in the context of a continued global pandemic. Stateless people around the world were already coping with fragility and rights-deprivations before this crisis, and in recent months they have had to face the extraordinary added challenges posed by Covid-19.  

The last reliable data about the scope of statelessness in Ukraine dates back to the 2001 population census, when 82,550 persons were declared stateless. They are those who arrived in Ukraine from other former Soviet republics after the collapse of the USSR who do not hold any nationality due to conflicting nationality laws or gaps in nationality legislation. The majority were located in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Odesa, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness in Ukraine

In Ukraine, UNHCR estimates that around 40,000 persons fall under its mandate on statelessness with a vast proportion belonging to vulnerable and marginalized groups such as Roma, homeless persons, older people holding Soviet passports, as well as persons released without documents from penitentiaries (in particular persons who were never documented and/or who have their residence registration in NGCA). UNHCR and its partners provide them with legal assistance.

The UNHCR also evaluates that approximately 60,000 children born in the non-government-controlled areas (NGCA) have not yet obtained a Ukrainian birth certificate. Without Ukrainian birth certificates, they may face risks of statelessness. UNHCR continues to advocate for simplification of birth registration so that the procedure is responsive to the specific needs of families in NGCA.

In 2013, Ukraine acceded to the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. On 16 June 2020, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law “On amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine regarding Recognition as a Stateless Person”.

The adoption of this law represents an important step towards ending statelessness in Ukraine. UNHCR welcomes this achievement. The law will give thousands of people who lack a nationality a chance to work legally, study and access healthcare among other rights and opportunities, and will ultimately provide a pathway to citizenship, once they are recognized as stateless. It is crucial that the law is implemented soon. UNHCR stands ready to support authorities in the implementation of the law and has offered its assistance to Ukraine’s State Migration Service to train key staff in their regional departments as well as legal practitioners, including from the state-run Free legal Aid Centers. UNHCR will also raise awareness among concerned population groups on the possibility to apply for statelessness status.


Global campaign #IBelong to eradicate statelessness

Sign our Open Letter to End Statelessness and become part of the global movement to end this injustice!

The #IBelong campaign was launched in November 2014. Together with governments, civil society and other UN agencies, we strive to eradicate statelessness by 2024, preventing new cases and better identifying and protecting stateless persons.

This campaign has effectively mobilized governments and civil society around the world.