FACTBOX- How countries have tackled statelessness

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 22 August 2011 19:53 GMT
A look at some of the countries which have taken steps to reduce statelessness.

This story is part of an AlertNet special multimedia report on statelessness

LONDON , Aug 23 (AlertNet) – An estimated 12-15 million people worldwide are stateless, meaning they are not recognised as nationals by any country. On Thursday the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) will launch a campaign to highlight the plight of stateless people. Below are examples of steps some countries have taken to tackle the problem and the challenges they still face.


-  After a campaign for citizenship by young Biharis, Bangladesh’s highest court ruled in 2008 that members of this Urdu-speaking minority, which had become stateless after the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, were nationals of Bangladesh. As a result, the government registered a large percentage of adults to vote in general elections in 2008.

-  But after almost 40 years of isolation and discrimination, the Biharis, estimated to total between 200,000 and 300,000, live in abject poverty. Many are still unable to obtain government jobs, access credit, get passports or obtain compensation for confiscated property.


-  Ukraine adopted a citizenship law in 1991, the same year the Soviet Union disintegrated. Those with permanent residence in Ukraine when the law was adopted were granted citizenship, but those arriving after 1991 with Soviet passports or without documents faced problems. Thousands of people still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles in their quest for citizenship.

-  Ukraine has worked closely with other states in Central Asia to reintegrate  Crimean Tartars and their descendants. The Tartars were rounded up by Stalin in 1944 and deported to Central Asia where they became stateless when the Soviet Union collapsed. A breakthrough came in 1999 with an agreement between Ukraine and Uzbekistan, where the majority of Tartars had been deported to. By 2004, more than 300,000 Tartars had received Ukrainian citizenship.


-  Nepal reduced the number of stateless people to an estimated 800,000 from around 3.4 million in 1995.  In the aftermath of the 2006 democracy movement the government embarked on large-scale campaign to encourage applications for citizenship, resulting in certificates being distributed to almost 2.6 million eligible people.

-  Despite these efforts, many citizens remain de facto stateless because of difficulties in obtaining documentation to prove their citizenship as well as  language problems, lack of knowledge, costs and nomadic lifestyles.   Married women cannot get a citizenship certificate without the approval of their husband or father-in-law and women married to foreigners cannot pass citizenship to their children.  The U.N. refugee agency fears a proposed new constitution could exacerbate statelessness.


-  Sri Lanka has amended laws to allow hundreds of thousands of descendants of Indian Tamils, who were brought over by British colonial rulers to work on tea plantations, to apply for citizenship. Under a series of bilateral agreements between India and Sri Lanka in 1964 and 1974, Sri Lanka agreed to provide citizenship to 375,000 Indian Tamils, also known as Hill Tamils.  In 1988, Sri Lanka passed a law that stated all stateless persons of Indian origin lawfully resident in Sri Lanka were entitled to citizenship


-  Tens of thousands of Roma were rendered stateless in 1993 when the newly established Czech Republic introduced a citizenship law. The intention had been that the Roma should move to Slovakia. Due to significant international pressure the Czech Republic in 1999 amended the law to allow stateless persons permanently residing in the country to lodge applications for Czech nationality.

Following is a list with all links related to the report.


VIDEO: Who is stateless? – Emma Batha and Alex Whiting, AlertNet

VIDEO: What is statelessness? – Aubrey Wade/Open Society Foundations

VIDEO: Stateless Nubians - Katy Migiro, AlertNet

VIDEO: Stateless Rohingyas - AlertNet

VIDEO: Stateless children in Sabah –Thin Lei Win, AlertNet

VIDEO: Stateless Dominicans – Jon Anderson, Open Society Foundations

GRAPHIC: Stateless people worldwide - Reuters



Invisible millions pay price of statelessness - Emma Batha, AlertNet       

Bedouns suffer uncertain fate in Kuwait - Emma Batha, AlertNet

Colonialism renders Nubians stateless in Kenya - Katy Migiro, AlertNet

Millions of Nepal children risk statelessness - Nita Bhalla, AlertNet

Citizenship worries compromise Ivory Coast stability - George Fominyen, AlertNet

Sabah’s stateless children seek official status - Thin Lei Win, AlertNet

Roma must get citizenship, says Europe rights chief  -  Megan Rowling, AlertNet     

EXPERT VIEWS – Did statelessness fuel the conflict in Congo? - George Fominyen, AlertNet

Brazil bill gives hope to Latin America’s stateless – Anastasia Moloney, AlertNet



FACTBOX: Stateless groups around the world - Emma Batha, AlertNet    

FACTBOX: How countries have tackled statelessness - Astrid Zweynert, AlertNet

LINKS: The world's most invisible people? - AlertNet



HAVE YOUR SAY: What does it mean to be stateless? - Tim Large, AlertNet

How DNA is helping young Thais get citizenship – Plan International  

‘Drowning nations’ threaten new 21st Century statelessness –  Maxine Burkett, ICAP

No rights for stateless Rohingya fleeing Burma - Refugees International    



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