Home sweet home? Not for 200,000+ stateless in U.S.

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 23 January 2020 15:33 GMT

Tents and tarps are seen on the sidewalk of a freeway overpass home to hundreds of homeless living on the streets of Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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There are an estimated 10 to 15 million people globally who are not recognised as citizens of any country - living without passports, rights or access to the most basic services

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Jan 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 200,000 people in the United States may be stateless, isolated and unable to travel, bank, see a doctor or get a job, according to groundbreaking research released on Thursday.

There are an estimated 10 to 15 million people globally who are not recognised as citizens of any country - living without passports, rights or access to the most basic services.

Yet there were no reliable statistics on the number living in the United States, so researchers used profiles of similar groups in other countries and applied the characteristics to U.S. census data, said the Center for Migration Studies.

According to the study's "unique methodology", about 218,000 U.S. residents are potentially stateless or at risk. The largest numbers live in California, New York, Texas and Ohio, it said.

"It's not an inconsequential problem," Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center and an author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Interviewees for the report emphasised the psychological stress, stigma and fallout of lacking a legal status.

"I can't tell anybody, I have to live a double life. I have to think about every word I say, who I say it to and what I say," one interviewee was quoted as saying in the report.

People lose their nationality for a host of historical, political and legal reasons: following mass migration, due to flawed laws or forced out by discrimination and war.

They are vulnerable to exploitation, stuck within borders and may be ineligible for jobs, health care, schools and bank services, the study said.

"The study itself validates us and recognises us," said Karina Clough of United Stateless, an advocacy group.

"You feel like you're in limbo," said Clough, a stateless resident of Philadelphia who was born in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths)

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