Stateless people are not recognized as citizens by any country, including the country they may have called home for generations. They often fall outside the formal legal system, perhaps because of discrimination in national legislation or because their community was excluded from citizenship when a country first became independent. Yet the right to a nationality is a basic human right, firmly established within international law.
Millions more have citizenship rights by law, but lack proof due to difficulties in acquiring legal identity documents like national identity cards or passports. Without a legal identity, it is impossible for them to secure rights, challenge discrimination or access services like education that can help in escaping poverty.
Although an enormous number of people worldwide lack effective citizenship rights, the phenomenon is hard to measure and is not well understood.
A joint Namati and Open Society Justice Initiative program in three pilot countries – Kenya, Bangladesh, and Jordan – trains community paralegals from historically stateless communities who continue to struggle with ineffective citizenship. Paralegals help people acquire and use identity documents and also track each case to monitor the implementation of laws in this field.
Paralegals can help people understand citizenship and documentation requirements and navigate bureaucracy, especially among those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Through the paralegal model we can test whether the denial of citizenship rights is due to state actors and/or state policy, rather than the failure of individuals to negotiate complex administrative rules.
Governments may argue with some justification that they cannot issue identity papers or provide public services because individuals do not ask for them, do not fill out the right forms, do not pay the required fees, or do not provide the correct documents. Now we can test a government’s argument. With the legal assistance provided by Namati, individuals will either receive the documents and results they need, or the responsibility can be clearly assigned to the state.
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Twenty-Nine Years Without an Identity
The pickpocketer was fast. In the blink of an eye, Mahmoud lost his cash, his driving license and—worst of all—his identity card.Read more
Ruma's Story: Birth Certificates and Schooling in Bangladesh
Ruma’s daughter was approaching school age, but there was a problem: she didn’t have a birth certificate...Read more
Justice & Identity in Kibera
How paralegals are bringing justice one identity document at a time to the Kenyan Nubians living in Nairobi's largest informal settlement.Read more
A Photo Journey: Paralegals & the Urdu-speaking Minority in Bangladesh
The photographer Bremen Donovan travelled to Bangladesh to document the work of Namati's partner, the Council of Minorities, with the Urdu-speaking camp dwellers of the country.View gallery
A Photo Journey: Paralegals in Kibera
Namati's Abigail Moy captured the work of the Nubian Rights Forum in the Kibera area of Nairobi.View gallery
Hamid's Story: Citizenship & Identity Documents in Kenya
Hamid is a Kenyan of Somali origin. To apply for an ID card he was asked to provide his birth certificate and school leaving certificate – which the government then lost.Read more
Khadija's Story: Citizenship & Identity Documents in Kenya
Before Khadija could obtain birth certificates for her children she had to obtain an ID for herself. Before she could apply for an ID card she had find her school certificate.Read more
Asinina's Story: Citizenship & Identity Documents in Kenya
Asinina needed a birth certificate for her little brother so he could go to senior school. To obtain that she first needed to apply for a death certificate for her late mother. To apply for the death certificate she needed to find her mother’s ID card.Read more
Issa's Story: Citizenship & Identity Documents in Kenya
Issa had an ID card but needed a birth certificate to get a job. To get a birth certificate he had to find the birth certificates of his father, mother, grandfather, and grandmother.Read more
Suleiman's Story: Citizenship & Identity Documents in Kenya
Suleiman faced endless difficulties trying to find out how to apply for a second generation Kenyan national ID card. Without that ID, Suleiman couldn’t be employed, couldn’t access a bank, or even use M-Pesa, the mobile-phone banking service.Read more
Shamima's Story: Maternal Care and Citizenship in Bangladesh
Shamima planned to give birth at home. Like many in her community, she didn't know she had the right to maternal care.Read more
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