On November 3rd Shia Rights Watch attended the UNHCR High-Level event on the importance of nationality in today’s world. In addition to the UNHCR, this event was jointly hosted by the Permanent Missions of Brazil, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Cote d’Ivore, and the United States.
Attendees included numerous delegates and NGOs from around the world and the high level panel included speakers such as Antonio Gutierrez who is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a former Prime Minister of Portugal.
High Commissioner conveyed his office’s plan to eradicate statelessness in 10 years. This process could be achieved through four steps: states should grant nationality for those born in their territory who would otherwise become stateless, grant women the right to pass nationality to their children in the same way fathers can, eradicating the discrimination of grating nationalities on basis of race religion and other categories, and lastly universal birth registration.
Also in attendance was Jirair Chichian who is Armenian young man who was born in Russia just after the fall of the Soviet Union has been stateless his entire life and has be unable to be afforded the rights of his peers. While an avid Greco-Roman wrestler, he has been unable to travel with his wrestling team around Europe since he doesn’t have a passport. He was only able to get to New York City because he received travel documents from UNHCR.
Addressing the concerns of statelessness people needs to become a primary concern of the international community because it has been utilized by states to bolster campaigns of discrimination. Groups such as the Rohingya in Myanmar and Shia Muslims in the Middle East have been either denied citizenship or not afforded the full rights of citizens in the countries they live in. In its most extreme uses, the denial of citizenship can be a form of ethnic and religious cleansing. To echo the words of Ambassador Antionio Patriota who is the Ambassador of Brazil to the United Nations, in a world composed of States, to have stateless people is both an anomaly and a source of unnecessary discrimination.
The issue with statelessness has come to the attention of the international community during the Syrian refugee crisis. During this crisis, hundreds of thousands of Syrian men, women and children have faced harrowing conditions to seek refuge in Europe. During this process, thousands have perished at land and sea and many have faced persistent discrimination throughout Europe.
Being stateless means that many protections are not afforded to them thus leaving them vulnerable to things such as education deprivation and economic exploitation. Without proof of citizenship and residence, children cannot register for schools and entire families often find their movement restricted by states.
Shia Rights Watch urges the international community to respect and ensure the protection of the rights of stateless people. While many policymakers acknowledge the need to address the root causes of this migration, it is necessary that those same policymakers ensure that these refugees are protected while they are away from home. Conflicts and other hardships that are not the fault of these refugees and migrants should not be held against them.