Being Stateless

Imagine not being able to have a birth certificate, or official registration that you were actually born, or even have any legitimate proof you exist. You would be hampered throughout life, each time you needed to show your identity, for school, health care, any number of services and activities. It’s one thing to follow through on John Lennon’s words, “Imagine there’s no country”, but it’s another not to belong to one in today’s world. In Nepal and Thailand thousands are believed to be stateless and not recognized by the state. Worldwide, some 10 million people are stateless, and the number is swelling in refugees camps like those of Syria, where thousands of births are not being registered. In the past 10 years some 4 million people were granted citizenship, and in 2008 Bangladesh formally recognized thousands of Urdu-speaking Biharis. Despite occasional efforts such as those, in human terms the consequences of statelessness are devastating. On a larger level experts say the overall numbers could be destabilizing, meaning that as those who are undocumented and stateless keep increasing, their number, some believe, could lead to a refugee crisis. The UNHCR (The UN refugee agency) held a forum in The Hague recently to draw attention to the issue and to help find solutions and will soon launch a global campaign to end statelessness—A welcomed effort underlining there’s a long way to go.

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