Introduction to AHMR Special Issue on Statelessness

Published: 31/Jan/2023
Source: African Human Mobility Review

Introduction to AHMR Volume 8 Number 3 September – December 2022

The African Human Mobility Review (AHMR) is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed on-line journal created to encourage and facilitate the study of all aspects (socio-economic, political, legislative and developmental) of human mobility in Africa. Through the publication of original research, policy discussions and evidence-based research papers, the AHMR provides a comprehensive forum devoted exclusively to the analysis of contemporaneous trends, migration patterns and some of the most important migration-related issues. The journal is accessible on-line at no charge. AHMR is jointly owned by the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA) and University of the Western Cape (UWC)[1].

This latest issue is a special issue on Statelessness in Africa is a compilation of critical research contributions from scholars who offer knowledge and bridge the scholarship gap on Statelessness in Africa. It provides a venue for further research on emerging areas, highlights important issues and describes new cross-disciplinary applications. This issue consists of seven thought-provoking articles[2]. To get an idea of what the new AHMR volume includes, consider reading the following:

Editorial – From the Margins to the Mainstream?: Bridging the Scholarship Gap on Statelessness in Africa

The first pages of the journal focuses on the editorial piece by Benyam Dawit Mezmur and Charissa Fawole entitled, “From the Margins to the Mainstream?: Bridging the Scholarship Gap on Statelessness in Africa”. The authors provided a comprehensive overview of statelessness, global and regional responses (laws and practice), progress and the gaps in the responses aimed at addressing issues of statelessness.

The authors also introduce this Special Issue on statelessness and gives a highlight of the different dimensions/angles that statelessness has been examined/explored including gender, challenges associated with statelessness, generational impacts of statelessness, mental health, climate change and possible solutions to the to the challenges associated with statelessness. The importance of expanding and deepening statelessness scholarship, research and responding/actively engaging with the contents of this Special Issue was pointed out as essential towards dealing with statelessness in Africa.

The Impact of Gender Discrimination on Statelessness: Causes, Consequences and Legal Responses

The first article is by Christina Beninger* and Rashida Manjoo entitled, “The Impact of Gender Discrimination on Statelessness: Causes, Consequences and Legal Responses”. This article discusses how gender discrimination impacts statelessness broadly and analyses how relevant international and selected Southern African and domestic law and policy frameworks have responded to this issue. The article also looks at the factors contributing to statelessness arising from gender discrimination, the effects of statelessness for women, and an analysis of the human rights legal policy frameworks for women’s rights, gender and statelessness in Southern Africa. The article indicates a need for more research to bridge the statelessness gender discrimination area.

Statelessness, Trauma and Mental Well-being: Implication for Practice, Research and Advocacy

The second article by Ajwang’ Warria and Victor Chikadzi entitled, “Statelessness, Trauma and Mental Well-being: Implication for Practice, Research and Advocacy” describes the importance of considering and prioritizing mental health in the care and protection of stateless people. The article gives an explanation of ways in which human rights violations, traumatic events and situations and daily stressors affect the mental health of statelessness people. Emphasis is given on the importance of mental health awareness of service providers working with stateless people for them to better able to provide services that reduce socio-emotional distress while strengthening resilience and coping strategies. The paper also draws attention to the need for both curative and preventative strategies, toward the establishment of just and inclusive societies.

Statelessness, Development, and Protection of ‘Disadvantaged Groups’: Bridging the Post-2030 Sustainable Development Gaps

The third article by Adeyemi Saheed Badewa entitled, “Statelessness, Development, and Protection of ‘Disadvantaged Groups’: Bridging the Post-2030 Sustainable Development Gaps” points out the mismatches in the implementation of multilateral development programmes and national policies resulting in increased vulnerability, deprivation and disadvantage of stateless people. The author underlines the importance of incorporating statelessness into the post–2030 development agenda as critical in addressing its challenges and improving the human security and conditions of stateless persons.

The Role of Colonialism in Creating and Perpetuating Statelessness in Southern Africa

The fourth article is by Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo entitled, “The Role of Colonialism in Creating and Perpetuating Statelessness in Southern Africa”. Through a literature review of existing publications on statelessness in the Southern African region the article is based on extracts and summaries of relevant text to describe the role of colonialism in creating and perpetuating statelessness. Links of statelessness to colonial histories, border changes, migration, gender, ethnic and religious discrimination, and poor civil registry systems are given. The article shows colonisalism has shaped most Southern African nationality laws which has exacerbated statelessness and xenophobia and the costs of statelessness to the society from three case studies in Southern Africa. The article also gives an indication of the importance of steps to address statelessness through different legal and policy measures and to ensure citizenship as a fundamental and essential human right[7].

The Impact of Climate Change on Statelessness in the Southern African Region

The fifth article by Leah Ndimurwimo and Michaela Jahnig entitled, “The Impact of Climate Change on Statelessness in the Southern African Region” notes that climate change as one of the factors causing statelessness. Using the case studies of South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania, the article explains statelessness and its association with cross-border and permanent displacement due to the impacts of climate change. Such circumstances were pointed out to lead to uncertainty in the rights and legal statuses of stateless persons, which can be passed on to subsequent generations. Due to the far-reaching implications of climate change on stateless implications. The article recommends the review of current laws and policies for effective prevention of statelessness and protection and promotion of stateless persons’ rights in the Southern African region.

Challenging the Practice of Administrative Detention for Stateless Persons in South Africa

The sixth paper by Fatima Khan entitled, Challenging the Practice of Admnistrative Detention for Stateless Persons in South Africa” demonstrates the unlawfulness of the immigration detention of stateless persons and seek an alternative approach or a remedy that could be implemented for stateless persons to identify themselves as legally present in South Africa. Through the paper, the author brings to light how the South African Immigration Act Section 14 requires any person to identify themselves when approached by a police officer/immigration officer as a citizen or as a person lawfully present in the Republic. It also points the challenges stateless people encounter in when approached because they are mostly unable to demonstrate their legal presence or provide a valid identity document thus making them vulnerable to being detained. This article advocates for ways to protect the rights of vulnerable immigrants and for the Immigration law to be amended so that it can be suited to provide protection for stateless persons[9].

Statelessness in Protracted Refugee situations: Former Angolan and Rwandan Refugees in Zambia

The last article by Mazuba Muchindu entitled, “Statelessness in the Potracted Refugee Situations: Former Angolan and Rwandan Refugees in Zambia” explored the risk of statelessness in protracted refugee situations, an area that has not received much attention both in academic literature and policy discussions. The paper discusses factors that increases the risk of statelessness among protracted refugees who at many times are unable or unwilling to acquire national identity documents from their country of origin for different reasons. The authors propose the need extend the definition of stateless persons to include de facto stateless persons since they are in effect stateless. This would enable them to access the necessary assistance, chief among which is the regularisation of their legal status[10].

Read original blog post introducing the special edition:

Themes: Acquisition of nationality, International standards, Discrimination, Statelessness
Regions: Pan Africa, Southern Africa
Year: 2022