On Saturday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees revealed that a staggering 4.4 million individuals across the world find themselves in a stateless predicament. This alarming statistic is believed to be a conservative estimate, as the actual number is likely much higher due to the inherent invisibility of stateless populations.
These revelations coincide with the ninth anniversary of the UNHCR’s “IBelong” campaign, a commendable effort to draw attention to the pressing issue of statelessness. The UN refugee agency emphasized the devastating consequences of statelessness, urging the international community to intensify its efforts to combat this exclusionary phenomenon.
Stateless individuals, who lack recognition as citizens of any country, face the dire consequences of being denied essential human rights and access to fundamental services. Consequently, they often endure political and economic marginalization, making them vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse, as highlighted by the UNHCR.
According to a statement from the UNHCR, “At least 4.4 million people in 95 countries are reported to be stateless or of undetermined nationality.” However, this figure is widely understood to be significantly understated, primarily because stateless people remain hidden from national statistical assessments.
Furthermore, a significant proportion of stateless individuals belong to minority groups, compounding the discrimination and marginalization they already experience. The UNHCR emphasized that although statelessness can have various underlying causes, many instances can be resolved through straightforward legislative and policy changes. UN Refugees Chief Filippo Grandi urged nations worldwide to take swift action to ensure that no one is left behind.
In 2023, noteworthy progress was made in addressing statelessness in countries such as Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Macedonia, Portugal, and Tanzania. Additionally, the Republic of Congo became the latest nation to accede to the Statelessness Conventions. As of now, 97 countries are party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and 79 have ratified the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
While acknowledging the positive strides taken to combat statelessness, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi emphasized that more needs to be done. With the escalation of global forced displacement, millions are pushed to society’s fringes, where they are deprived of their basic human rights and opportunities to participate in and contribute to society. Grandi asserted that this exclusion is unjust and must be addressed on a global scale.