Home > Who We Help > Stateless People

Stateless People

Who We Help
© UNHCR/N.Lukin

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.

What is Statelessness?

Statelessness refers to the condition of someone who is not considered as a national by any country.

State Action on Statelessness

Action taken by states, including follow-up on pledges made at UNHCR's 2011 ministerial meeting in Geneva.

Who is Stateless and Where?

There are at least 10 million stateless people in dozens of countries around the world.

UNHCR Actions

UNHCR works in four key ways: identification, protection, prevention and reduction.

Is Statelessness a Problem?

The Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 years aims to spread awareness and change perceptions about statelessness.

UN Conventions on Statelessness

The two UN statelessness conventions are the key legal instruments in the protection of stateless people around the world.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •
#IBELONG: End Statelessness NowPlay video

#IBELONG: End Statelessness Now

#IBELONG

IBELONG
Sign and share our open letter to end statelessness in ten years.

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

A Special Report: Ending Statelessness Within 10 years

The Special Report provides a comprehensive overview of statelessness and delves into the human impact of this devastating phenomenon.

Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014-2024

The Global Action Plan sets out a clear and practical strategy comprised on 10 Actions which need to be undertaken to end statelessness in 10 years.

Statelessness Documents on Refworld

Refworld contains a wealth of documents related to statelessness, including legal, policy and background information. Read more.