• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Hong Kong: HC applauds protection decision

Briefing Notes, 25 February 2000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 February 2000, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The High Commissioner appreciates the decision this week of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to grant the right of abode to the remaining 973 Vietnamese refugees and 327 non-refugees whose repatriation to Viet Nam has not been cleared by Hanoi authorities on nationality grounds. This gesture further demonstrates the commitment of China's SAR authorities to the protection of refugees in Hong Kong.

The decision is the accomplishment of three years of concerted efforts by the HKSAR Government, UNHCR and non-governmental partners, with the crucial support of the donor community, toward the self-reliance of this group. This permanent solution brings an end to the last chapter of the Comprehensive Plan of Action in Hong Kong.

In the coming weeks, UNHCR will conduct an information campaign in coordination with the SAR authorities and Caritas Hong Kong to actively encourage the 1,400 individuals to apply for the right of abode under the Widened Local Resettlement Scheme. This scheme will enable them to benefit from public housing and other social welfare assistance and will ultimately lead to Hong Kong citizenship after seven years.

Since the first influx of boat people in 1975, more than 200,000 people have landed in Hong Kong, of whom 143,000 have been resettled to third countries and 66,000 returned to Viet Nam (i.e. 57,000 voluntarily under UNHCR's auspices and 9,000 under the Hong Kong Government's Orderly Departure Programme).

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Viet Nam's achievements in granting citizenship to thousands of stateless people over the last two years make the country a global leader in ending and preventing statelessness.

Left stateless after the 1975 collapse of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, nearly 1,400 former Cambodian refugees received citizenship in Viet Nam in 2010, the culmination of five years of cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Vietnamese government. Most of the former refugees have lived in Viet Nam since 1975, all speak Vietnamese and have integrated fully. Almost 1,000 more are on track to get their citizenship in the near future. With citizenship comes the all-important family registration book that governs all citizens' interactions with the government in Viet Nam, as well as a government identification card. These two documents allow the new citizens to purchase property, attend universities and get health insurance and pensions. The documents also allow them to do simple things they could not do before, such as own a motorbike.

Viet Nam also passed a law in 2009 to restore citizenship to Vietnamese women who became stateless in the land of their birth after they married foreign men, but divorced before getting foreign citizenship for them and their children.

UNHCR estimates that up to 12 million people around the world are currently stateless.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

Two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, thousands of people in former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan are still facing problems with citizenship. UNHCR has identified more than 20,000 stateless people in the Central Asian nation. These people are not considered as nationals under the laws of any country. While many in principle fall under the Kyrgyz citizenship law, they have not been confirmed as nationals under the existing procedures.

Most of the stateless people in Kyrgyzstan have lived there for many years, have close family links in the country and are culturally and socially well-integrated. But because they lack citizenship documents, these folk are often unable to do the things that most people take for granted, including registering a marriage or the birth of a child, travelling within Kyrgyzstan and overseas, receiving pensions or social allowances or owning property. The stateless are more vulnerable to economic hardship, prone to higher unemployment and do not enjoy full access to education and medical services.

Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken many positive steps to reduce and prevent statelessness. And UNHCR, under its statelessness mandate, has been assisting the country by providing advice on legislation and practices as well as giving technical assistance to those charged with solving citizenship problems. The refugee agency's NGO partners provide legal counselling to stateless people and assist them in their applications for citizenship.

However, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan is complex and thousands of people, mainly women and children, still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles when seeking to confirm or acquire citizenship. In 2009, with the encouragement of UNHCR, the government adopted a national action plan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In 2011, the refugee agency will help revise the plan and take concrete steps to implement it. A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed so that statelessness does not become a lingering problem for future generations.

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

Tanzania: Road to CitizenshipPlay video

Tanzania: Road to Citizenship

In 2007, UNHCR and the government of Tanzania gave him a choice: return home or become Tanzanian. It was an easy decision for Michael Sheltieri Namoya.
Viet Nam: Without a CountryPlay video

Viet Nam: Without a Country

In the 1970s, thousands of people fled to Viet Nam to escape the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Some of those who stayed in places Like Ho Chi Minh City became stateless.
Stateless in the United StatesPlay video

Stateless in the United States

Searching for citizenship