The UN refugee agency has launched a global campaign to promote action against statelessness, a scourge for millions of people worldwide. Nationality might seem like a universal birthright, but it is estimated that up to 12 million people around the world are struggling to get along without it.
The stateless may also not be able to own property, open bank accounts, get married legally, or register the birth of a child. Some face long periods of detention because they cannot prove their identity or domicile, UNHCR said in a press release.
"These people are in desperate need of help because they live in a nightmarish legal limbo," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a message to launch the campaign, which comes ahead of the 50th anniversary on Tuesday of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Statelessness has a variety of causes. Some populations were excluded from citizenship at the time of independence from colonial rule. Others fall victim to mass denationalization. In some countries, women cannot confer nationality on their children. Sometimes, because of discrimination, legislation fails to guarantee citizenship for certain ethnic groups.
The problem is global. Under its statelessness mandate, UNHCR is advising stateless people on their rights and assisting them in acquiring citizenship.It is also raising awareness about the international legal definition while improving its own methods for gathering data on stateless populations.
"I am stateless."
Railya Abulkhanova, 36, was born and raised in a family of five in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan and was studying in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving her citizenship in question.
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
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