A child is born stateless every 10 minutes, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday, adding there are at least 10 million stateless people around the world, who have neither nationality, nor passport. But refugee camps aren’t the only homes to these people, as there are approximately 100,000 stateless people in the wealthy GCC state of Kuwait.
On Tuesday, the UNHCR announced it is launching a campaign to end statelessness around the world within 10 years. According to the agency, for a number of reasons at least 10 million people are not recognized as nationals by any country. These stateless people are probably millions more, but there is practically no way of determining their actual number. They don’t have passports; many of them don’t have IDs, while some don’t even have birth certificates. They are denied the rights and benefits most of us take for granted and are at high risk of exploitation and slavery. Their very existence is illegal – a total absurdity and unacceptable anomaly in the 21st century, according to UNHCR head Antonio Guterres.
Stateless people usually don’t get access to medical care, education, as well as political rights. The reasons why they never get nationality are many – for instance, children born in refugee camps are often not entitled to the nationality of the country they are born, while at the same time, they rarely get the nationality of their parents. Another common problem is the fact that in some countries (27 countries to be exact), women can’t pass their nationality on to their children, which according to the UNHCR, is the reason for generations of stateless people. In other places like Burma ethnic minorities are denied citizenship – people from Burma’s Rohingya community, which are up to 2 million, don’t have nationality and are deprived of many basic human rights. Significant populations of them can also be found in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia.
There are also around 700,000 stateless people in Ivory Coast, up to 300,000 stateless Kurds in Syria, hundreds of thousands in Nepal, more than half a million stateless people from ethnic hill tribes in Thailand, 210,000 people in the Dominican Republic, and many more in Iraq, Russia and the Baltic states, Malaysia, and Europe. One of the largest groups of stateless people is the Bedouin or some of the Bedouin tribes in particular. Their total number is estimated at approximately 21 million people, but at least 140,000 of them who live in Kuwait don’t have a nationality. There are also stateless Bedouin communities across the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Jordan.