Header image for news printout

Statelessness of millions of minority people must be addressed urgently, says UN human rights expert

GENEVA (13 March 2019) — Millions around the world are deprived of citizenship because they belong to specific minorities, increasing their vulnerability and exclusion, says a UN human rights expert.

“The horrific human tragedies and the humanitarian crisis involving the one million or so members of the Rohingya minority who are stateless highlight the extent of the issue,” UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“There are also potentially some four million Bengali and other minorities who could end up being deemed non-citizens in India’s Assam State.

De Varennes also expressed concerns about the removal of citizenship from individuals, who are usually members of certain minorities and considered politically unacceptable or undeserving.

“Statelessness is first and foremost a minority issue because more than three quarters of the world’s official 10 million stateless people are from minorities. The consequences and prospects for them, their children and generations of their descendants could be dismal and tragic,” he said.

“Without citizenship, people who are stateless become humans without rights. The reality for millions of displaced people, refugees, minorities and those who are stateless is exclusion and discrimination, as they are not able to claim rights as citizens of a state.

“The result for them and possibly future generations is poverty, despair and resentment, which undermines for all of us the very universality of the human rights we proclaim.”

The Special Rapporteur urged States, regional and international organisations and civil society to urgently work to address the issue.

He also informed the Council of new initiatives including the drafting of much-needed practical guidelines that recognise and address the root causes of statelessness, and ways to tackle the human rights issues that are at its core, pointing to the UNHCR’s “ibelong” campaign aimed at eradicating statelessness by 2024.


Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Mr. Damianos Serefidis (+41 22 917 94 88 / dserefidis@ohchr.org) or Mr. Dorian Hall (+41 22 917 54 93 / dhall@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.  #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.or