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Establishing a nationality

Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. But with so few states party to this treaty – just 38 of the UN’s 193 member states – there is little cause for celebration. Millions of people around the world continue to suffer the consequences of not having a nationality.

Statelessness is what happens when people do not have an official nationality, papers that show what country they are from, or if they are not recognised by the state in which they live or have come from.

How refugees are affected by statelessness

Statelessness often affects refugees and their children, who may have fled countries where they did not have any passport or official papers, and end up in a limbo where neither their home country nor the country they have fled to recognise them as citizens. In many cases, this affects refugees in specially set-up camps which operate outside any state jurisdiction or recognition.

If you’re stateless, it means your rights are not protected as you must have a state which is responsible for them.

Global campaign to ensure everyone has the right of a nationality

Last week the UNHCR launched a global campaign to combat statelessness, in an effort to get more countries and nation states around the world to sign up to the two UN Conventions on Statelessness (the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness).

Today the organisation is repeating its call to governments, advocates, media, and individuals for a redoubling of efforts so that more states sign on to the statelessness conventions, reform nationality laws, and resolve the problem.

Everyone should have a nationality: it is a fundamental right.

Read more about statelessness on the UNHCR website

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Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew