Millions of people who have no nationality face discrimination, poverty, and fear. The lack of documents creates a barrier extremely hard to outcome, isolating them from the rest of the society and restraining them from getting access to basic rights.
According to the UN Refugees Agency, 75% of the known stateless population are ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority groups. These groups live on the edge because they are poorer, less educated, unable to speak national language, live on remote areas or do not have access to venues for advice or support. The solutions are not very complex: facilitate the naturalization or confirmation of nationality, allow children to have the nationality of the country in which they were born, eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality based on discriminatory factors, ensure universal birth registration and eliminate procedural and practical obstacles.
In the document entitled “This is our Home”, the UN Refugee Agency brings the testimony of 120 stateless people who belong to minority groups in Madagascar, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kenya. They explained the challenges they face on a daily basis. Sherafedin Sejfula, a 54 year-old man from the Roma group in Macedonia described the segregation faced by his group:
Discrimination against the Roma is widespread. It is everywhere, in police stations, hospitals, schools. Everyone has priority over you. They [public administration] have an arrogant approach from the start. They always tell you to leave. But this is our homeland, our grandparents were born here, we are not from elsewhere
Unable to vote, travel to visit the land of their religion, to be the legitimate owner of their own ground, to get hold of education, healthcare, employment and social assistance, stateless people face challenges that don´t exist for a regular citizen. Some members of this minorities spend years trying to obtain a certificate to prove their nationality and only get them when they are too old to enjoy its benefits. The process of certifying a nationality is harder and longer than it should be mainly because authorities fail to give clear instructions to the population regarding the documents necessary to apply for the certificate.
Since 2014, the UNHCR has been shedding light on the situation of stateless people as part of the campaign #IBELONG. Some states have started working to reduce and prevent statelessness, but more needs to be done to provide minorities with the same rights assured to other the citizens who were born in the country.
To know more about this campaign, access: http://www.unhcr.org/59f747404
By Ingrid Mariz (UFRJ)