Ten Million People in the World Have No Nationality

 “On the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair. If our hopes for the future generation are to be realised, that generation must be a meaningful part of the present. None of our children should be stateless. All children should belong”
– Antonio Guiterres.

IbelongTo celebrate the first year anniversary of the UN Refugee Agency’s campaign, #IBELONG, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the effects of statelessness, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner Refugees (UNHCR) released a report to demonstrate the debilitating impact of statelessness on children and youth.

The internationally accepted legal definition of a statelessness person is outlined in article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, defines a stateless individual as “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.

As part of the report, UNHCR gathered a number of individual testimonies from consultations with stateless youth and children from around the globe to demonstrate how statelessness can significantly ‘impair the ability of children to learn, grow, play and lead productive and fulfilling lives’. The effects of statelessness on youth have snowballing effects later in life, including limited access to education, inadequate health care and stifling effects on job or career prospects. As the report outlines, the main causes of statelessness can attributed to discrimination, gaps in nationality laws, and a lack of birth registration.

Despite international human rights frameworks such as Article 7 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by 194 out of the 196 member states) in place to protect children’s rights, including the right of children to a nationality, statelessness is still a major human rights issue that needs to be addressed at a global level. Recognizing and voicing the harmful effects of statelessness on children and young people, and indeed raising awareness of such issues, is a step in the right direction – to world where each and every individual belongs. It is a step towards developing straightforward legal and practical measures to prevent statelessness and give governments the opportunity to realise the connections between children and their countries.

Zoya Yukhnevich (ERI intern)

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