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Statelessness: what it is and why it matters

By: Indira Goris, Julia Harrington, Sebastian Köhn

For many of us, citizenship only really matters when we travel abroad, when the Olympic Games are on, or when we vote in national elections. We do not think about our citizenship on a daily basis. For others, citizenship is an ever-present issue, and often an obstacle. Because recognition of nationality serves as a key to a host of other rights, such as education, health care, employment, and equality before the law, people without citizenship – those who are ‘stateless’ – are some of the most vulnerable in the world.

The inclusion of the right to nationality in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, like the UDHR as a whole, was motivated by the impulse to respond to the atrocities committed during the Second World War, among them mass denationalisations and huge population movements. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi-perpetrated genocide fled their home countries, while millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from eastern European states, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and other minority populations of the Soviet Union either were forcibly expelled or fled for their safety.

Estimates of the current number of stateless persons in the world range from about 11 to 15 million. There is not only a lack of systematic attention given to collecting reliable statistics but also a lack of consensus on whom to include when counting stateless people.

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Uploaded on: Apr 17, 2018
Last Updated: Apr 18, 2018
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