UNHCR urges states to end limbo for stateless people by 2024

COVID-19 exacerbates the plight of millions of stateless people worldwide, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, warned today.

In celebration of the sixth anniversary of the UNHCR # IBelong campaign, which aims to end statelessness by 2024, Grandi called on world leaders to include and protect stateless populations and take bold and rapid steps to do to eradicate statelessness.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has more than ever demonstrated the need for inclusion and the urgency of resolving statelessness. A pandemic does not discriminate against citizens and non-citizens. It is not in any state, society or community. ‘s importance that people should be left stateless and remain on the margins of society, ā€¯Grandi said.

“We need to redouble our efforts to resolve this insult to humanity in the 21st century.”

Because there are no important legal rights and often do not have access to essential services, many stateless people are politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In many countries, stateless people, including stateless refugees, live in substandard and inadequate sanitary conditions that can increase the risk of disease.

Although global data is difficult to obtain because stateless populations are not always taken into account or included in national censuses, approximately 4.2 million stateless people are reported by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, in 76 countries. However, it is believed that the actual number is significantly higher.

Although significant progress has been made since the start of the campaign in November 2014 in reducing statelessness worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has now exacerbated many of the problems and injustices facing stateless people.

“Without citizenship, many stateless people do not have access to or are not included in essential public health services and social safety nets. They have been left extremely vulnerable in the face of this pandemic,” Grandi said.

However, some countries have shown leadership by including stateless people in their response to COVID-19, ensuring that they have access to testing and treatment, food, clothing and masks. Some governments have made birth registration and other forms of civil documentation an essential service, despite the pandemic, thus preventing new cases of statelessness.

“Statelessness is an easily resolvable and preventable issue – a matter of political will to change a person’s status and life – but the consequences of inaction, especially during the middle of a pandemic, can be life threatening,” he said. Grandi said.

“To protect and save lives, we call on governments to resolve statelessness and make sure no one is left behind.”

Notes to editors / background information:

Since the start of the # IBelong campaign:

Nearly 350,000 stateless people have acquired nationality in such diverse places as Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Tajikistan, Thailand, Russia, Sweden, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines.

There were 25 entries in the two UN conventions on statelessness, representing 94 countries that are now part of the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, and 75 in the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

16 countries have also instituted or improved statelessness determination procedures to identify stateless people on their territory, and some offer an easier path to citizenship.

8 states amended their nationality laws to grant nationality to children born on their territory who would otherwise be stateless, and two states reformed their nationality laws to allow mothers to give their children nationality on the same basis as fathers.

For more information, please contact:

In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, [email protected], +41 79 337 76 50


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