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At least 4.4 million people are stateless, UN says

The UNHCR celebrated some achievements in the past year, but said more needed to be done

The UNHCR celebrated some achievements in the past year, but said more needed to be done

At least 4.4 million people in 95 countries are stateless or of undetermined nationality, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Saturday.

In its annual report marking the 9th anniversary of its #IBelong campaign, the UNHCR said the actual figure globally is believed to be significantly higher, "given the relative invisibility of stateless people in national statistical exercises."

The cost of being stateless

The agency noted that stateless people, often belonging to minority groups, are often deprived of human rights and access to basic services. This leaves them "politically and economically marginalized and vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and abuse."

"With rising global forced displacement, millions are being left on the margins, deprived of their basic human rights, including participating in and contributing to society," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. "This exclusion is unjust and must be addressed."

In total, 97 countries are now party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and 79 are party to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Significant achievements celebrated

The refugee agency commended some achievements reported in the past year in several countries. The report celebrated dozens of countries for introducing safeguards in their laws to prevent statelessness or setting up procedures to protect stateless people.

It referred to legislative safeguards introduced by the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Moldova to help prevent statelessness at birth.

The report also mentioned a legal framework approved in Portugal to regulate statelessness status, and North Macedonia allowing stateless people to acquire nationality.

In Kenya, some 7,000 stateless people from the Pemba community were confirmed as citizens this year, the UNHCR said. Nearby in Tanzania, over 3,000 individuals at risk of statelessness were also granted nationality.

"Though statelessness has many causes, in many instances it can be resolved through simple legislative and policy changes. I call upon states worldwide to take immediate action and ensure no one is left behind,” said Grandi.

Grandi stressed that the positive steps taken during the past year were still not enough.

rmt/jcg (AFP)