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UNHCR and Asylum Aid launch new report on stateless persons living in the UK

On November 22nd, UNHCR and Asylum Aid launch their joint report Mapping Statelessness in the UK.  

On the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the report looks at the number and situation of stateless persons living in the UK, and recommends legal solutions to the plight into which stateless persons are forced.

Mapping Statelessnessfinds that stateless people in the UKlive at daily risk of human rights infringements.  Many are trapped in a nightmarish legal limbo from which there is currently no escape.  Being stateless is likened by one interviewee to being “a bird with nowhere to rest on the ground, but which can’t spend his whole life in the sky”.  The report describes the experiences of:

·     stateless people forced to live on the street, with no accommodation in the UKand no right to remain, but with no other country to which they can turn for help

·     stateless people separated from their spouses and children for many years – in some cases, for more than a decade

·     stateless people held in immigration detention, often for many months, when evidence shows there is no country of nationality or residence to which they can be returned

Nationality is a legal bond between a person and a state, providing people with a sense of identity and enabling them to exercise a wide range of rights. With no legal ties to any government, stateless people don’t have any of the protection or rights associated with citizenship.  There are numerous causes of statelessness including ethnic discrimination, the creation of new states and nationality laws which preclude women passing on nationality to their children.

The absence of any robust procedure to identify and help people in this situation in the UKmeans that stateless people are falling through cracks in government policy and are not receiving the support they desperately need.  Mapping Statelessness calls for the urgent adoption of a statelessness determination procedure, which could identify stateless persons more efficiently and resolve their situation before human rights were endangered.

Roland Schilling, UNHCR Representative to the UK, said:

“It is not acceptable for any person to be excluded from society to such an extent that they are denied access to education, employment, housing and even identity documents, because no country in the world feels responsible for them. Although statelessness is a global problem, it appears in the UKas well.  

“We call upon the UKgovernment to address the challenge of statelessness and to ensure that the human rights of stateless persons on UKterritory are not infringed. This report maps their situation and recommends practical steps on how to find a solution for them”. 

UNHCR estimates that there are up to 12 million stateless people in the world, but defining exact numbers is hugely problematic. Mapping Statelessness is the first research of its kind to ascertain the extent of the problem and the dire human consequences for stateless people in the UK.

The launch is accompanied by the photographic exhibition Nowhere People: the Global Face of Statelessness ( www.nowherepeople.org ), by award-winning photographer Greg Constantine. Over the years, photographer Greg Constantine has been working to bring to light the stories of stateless people around the world and give a human face to this global issue. Nowhere People serves as a reminder of the existence of the millions of stateless people who are hidden and forgotten around the world.