Friday, February 19, 2010

Statelessness: A denial of human rights - By Ardahan Ali

Statelessness refers to the condition of a person who is not recognised as a national by any state. Stateless people are isolated by state legislation, leaving them vulnerable in ways that most of us never have to estimate.

Stateless person is "a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law" (Article 1 of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 1954).

Kurds, Bidoons, Rohingya and millions of people fall under this definition. There are two kinds of statelessness: de jure and de facto.

De jure stateless people are not measured as nationals therefore they do not have a nationality /citizenship, for example Kurds in Syria.

De facto statelessness where an individual has a nationality but the nationality is meaningless, for example people in Hong Kong not of Chinese descent.

It may be argued that in an ideal world there would be no person without nationality but in the existent world mainly in the less developed countries under the names of sovereignty, safety measures and changing rules people become stateless.

UNHCR estimates that there may be as many of "12 million stateless people worldwide." (UNHCR, 2009)

Stateless people are not just vulnerable people in the world but they are some of the most hidden people as well.

In practice, many stateless people are officially invisible as a result of their isolation by national legislations or they might have crossed international borders but have not attempted to be designated as refugees therefore they are mostly invisible.

"Hidden in the back corners of the world, is a scattered population of millions of nobodies, citizens of nowhere, forgotten or neglected by governments, ignored by census takers." (Bartlett, 2008)

There are many causes of statelessness, like the statelessness through a confusing chain of sovereign, political, legal, technical or administrative orders or whatever the reasons are it is absolutely against fundamental human rights, the right to a nationality is protected under international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a general right to nationality which that:

"1.Everyone has the right to a nationality.2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality." (Article 15 of the UDHR, 1948)

Many stateless people may not have access to the same levels of health care, education and employment as other nationals. Statelessness leads to inequality and discrimination against the individual, for example: denationalized Kurds are facing many difficulties in Syria owing to their ethnicity, they are making up to 300,000 of the country’s population, and under the name of sovereignty they are denied basic rights, they cannot have regular access to education, nationality, health care, property rights, judicial and legal systems; they have been forgotten and isolated by the state, therefore the statelessness of thousands Kurds in Syria based on discrimination, which is created by human beings to limit right to self-determination of a certain minority, it is a discrimination that targets a specific group.

Statelessness has a negative impact on children too, despite the fact that the children’s right to nationality is protected in accordance to the Rights of the Child under the UN Convention, which provides that:

The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. (Article 7 of the UNCRC, 1989)

But stateless children in a number of countries for example; Syria owing to their ethnicity they cannot have a birth certificate, as their parents are not provided with marriage certificates and access to education is often restricted.

Most stateless people are officially invisible and face a wide range of barriers in their daily lives, Statelessness is a big issue worldwide, the number of stateless people is high and should be tackled through wide-ranging resources, no one shall be excluded from nationality and citizenship whatever the reasons are it is absolutely against basic human rights.

Reference list

Bartlett, A. (2008) ‘Stateless People’;. Rohingya Times, [Online] Available from:

The General Assembly of the United Nations, (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [Internet] Geneva: UN Available from:

The General Assembly of the United Nations, (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child. [Internet] New York: OHCHR. Available from:

The General Assembly of the United Nations, (1954) Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. [Internet] New York: OHCHR. Available from:

UNHCR, (2009) ‘Addressing Situations of Statelessness’ UNHCR Global Appeal 2009 Update, 45-48. - By Ardahan Ali