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A cooperative effort to protect the human rights of stateless persons

The problem of statelessness is global. Figures are imprecise but it is estimated that there are millions of people who do not have legal identities. In the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) there are several large stateless populations, including several hundred thousand Bidoon in the Gulf region, more than 200,000 stateless Kurds in Syria and Lebanon and millions of Palestinians still waiting for a State of their own.

In the Middle East and North Africa region there are several large stateless populations © OHCHREarlier this year, during a visit to the Gulf region, Human Rights chief Navi Pillay spoke of the precarious lives of the Bidoon population. “As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, everyone has a right to a nationality and to a legal personality, without which a person in fact does not exist before the law.  The Bidoon have neither. Without documentation and citizenship, they often endure marginalization, prejudice and exclusion,” she said.

Speaking at an expert meeting co-organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Fateh Azzam from the UN Human Rights office said, “The right to a nationality should be enjoyed by all in implementation of the right to self-determination and to resolve long-standing historical and political conflicts. However, even as we wait for states to have the courage and the political will to act, stateless persons must be guaranteed the full range of human rights…”

At the meeting participants heard of the many rights that are denied the stateless.  Their access to a family life may be impossible because of the difficulties in registering births and marriages and because of physical separations resulting from detention, deportation or refusal to allow individuals who are stateless to return to their usual place of residence.  Stateless persons often have little or no access to employment, education and healthcare.  Children who are stateless may be given primary schooling but not be permitted to take official examinations, which prevents further education.

The cooperative process between OHCHR and UNHCR will be based primarily on a two-tiered approach: the prevention and reduction of statelessness and protecting the human rights of those without nationality or legal identity.

22 November 2010