COLUMN: The stateless – no place to call home

Having no nationality affects people of all ages and prevents them from accessing vital services in their day-to-day lives.

Earlier this month, the United Nations launched a Campaign to End Statelessness. Statelessness prevents an individual from having a nationality or citizenship in any country.

This crisis currently affects 10 million people around the world. Despite the existence of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961), this problem still afflicts millions.

The situation affects people of all ages, including children and the elderly, and ultimately prevents them from accessing vital services in their day-to-day lives.

For instance, they face difficulty in regards to accessing education and health care, getting married, or obtaining jobs and financial services, simply because they have been denied the basic right of citizenship.

They can also suffer from disparity in wages and poverty and fall victim to human trafficking. They face the prospect of not being able to participate in government or the democratic process because they lack the ability to vote or become candidates. Children can be born without a nationality if they are born to a stateless parent or if they are not able to produce their documents after being forced to leave their country in a conflict, as is the case for refugees who left Syria.

Stateless individuals face constant obstacles. Because of their lack of citizenship, children are ostracized, may be unable to receive an education, and as they grow up, can have difficulty getting a job, which further prevents them from achieving their goals and aspirations.

Discrimination, conflict, and flawed laws are largely to blame. Women in 27 countries do not have the right to pass on their nationality to their children.

And discrimination can take place against people of a certain race or background, which prevents them from possessing a nationality.

Individuals who are stateless face practical, emotional and psychological hardships. Stateless people can also be put in prison, simply for not having a nationality.

What is important to note in this global problem is that it can be solved. In fact, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, and Cote d’Ivoire have taken initiatives to help end cases of statelessness in their countries by making changes to laws related to citizenship or through governmental steps.

The 10-year campaign initiated by the UN is meant to urge governments to bring positive changes and prevent and rectify statelessness.

Let’s all support the efforts of the UN and ensure human rights by signing its open letter urging governments to bring change: http://bit.ly/1o8HTak.

No person deserves to live a life where a lack of nationality equals lifelong problems of poverty and rights violations.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

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