Most of us can confidently say that they are of a certain nationality (Romanian, American, Canadian and so on). But how many of us have fully understood the fact that for some people it is a privilege to actually say this? You may think: “Well, everyone has a nationality, they have “their” country!”. To be honest with you, for some people, it’s not the case. They’d give anything to be able to have a nationality and to do those things that we can do without many issues. So, I will write about statelessness, what it implies and how to combat it.
What is statelessness?
According to law, a stateless person is someone who isn’t considered a national by any state. Simple, right? Well, the concept is simple and easy to deduct, but, unfortunately, it is very layered. Many stateless people haven’t even crossed a border in their lives, which makes the situation even more difficult. They are basically stateless in the country they were born! The fact that they are stateless deprives them from so many things: they can’t get a proper education, they aren’t eligible for a passport, they can’t really do anything. And to think that we take these things for granted!
Unfortunately, this problem has many causes, some of them being stupid, if you ask me. For example, in some countries, females can’t confer nationalities to their children. So, if the father is not around and the mother decides to raise the child herself in a country like this, the child will be stateless. In addition to the problem, if the father is stateless, the child will be stateless as well. Even though some countries such as Morocco and Algeria have worked towards a gender-neutral society from this point of view, the issue is still very accurate regarding these times.
Some people also become stateless when their state of nationality doesn’t exist anymore. For example, some people that lived in Yugoslavia or USSR had this problem.
As saddening as this is, another stupid cause that led to this problem is discrimination. Some people weren’t able to get citizenship because of their race or ethnic origin. So, their logic is: oh, this person can’t have basic human rights just because of something they can’t control or change!
Another heartbreaking reason why people are stateless is the fact that there are non-state territories such as Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus and Palestinian territories. Other countries don’t recognize these states, therefore the people that live there can’t have citizenship. The fact that the other countries don’t really recognize them as states doesn’t help.
How to combat statelessness
In order for it to cease to exist, we should get rid of all the factors that cause statelessness. For example, more countries should remove gender discrimination from nationality laws. By doing this, less children will be born stateless and will have a better chance at life. They will finally be individuals and they will have basic human rights.
On a positive note, there are many organizations whose goal is ending statelessness and making sure that everyone will get the education and nourishment that they deserve. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a campaign in 2014 and their goal is to end statelessness within 10 years. 6 years later and it’s still a huge issue…
Some states must abide by the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, which means that they must make sure that no child is born stateless. Well, that’s a start! These children will have a better chance to succeed in life and to actually feel accomplished.
It’s high time we raised more awareness to issues like this one, which affect the world and its course. We should support various organizations which fight for these people. We should also make sure that these people have the best possible chance at life.