An Introduction to Statelessness
People are often asked, at some point in their lives, what nationality they have. However, not many question how and why they have acquired their nationality. Is nationality something we are born with? Is it something we acquire? Can we lose it? The answer to these questions is yes. However, unless you have encountered problems with your nationality, you probably take it for granted.
Having a nationality is something so natural that people rarely stop to think about what life would be like without it. But at least 10 million people worldwide have no nationality. That is the same as the combined populations of Norway and Denmark. Moreover, most of these 10 million people are stateless by no fault of their own. Statelessness – not having a nationality – occurs because of discrimination against certain groups; redrawing of borders; and gaps in nationality laws.
The constant in all of this is that someone without a nationality cannot live the same life as someone with a nationality:
- Try to get an ID card if you have no nationality;
- Try opening a bank account without an ID card;
- Try to board a flight without a passport;
- Try to enrol in university without proof of nationality.
These things are impossible for stateless people to do in a way that is safe and dignified. So imagine a lifetime of obstacles and disappointment and imagine 10 million people who cannot achieve their full potential. To help make a difference, support UNHCR’s 10-year campaign to eradicate statelessness by the year 2024.
Statelessness refers to the condition of someone who is not considered as a national by any country.
Action taken by states, including follow-up on pledges made at UNHCR's 2011 ministerial meeting in Geneva.
There are at least 10 million stateless people in dozens of countries around the world.
UNHCR works in four key ways: identification, protection, prevention and reduction.
The two UN statelessness conventions are the key legal instruments in the protection of stateless people around the world.