Source: Boston University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic
The right to a nationality is foundational towards the protection and fulfillment of basic human rights. If you have ever crossed an international border, chances are you hold a national identity document that entitles you to not only leave but also return to your country of residence. Most stateless persons lack such documentation, restricting their ability to travel. Being stateless can also mean you are unable to secure housing, access education, or get married, but what it certainly means is that you are forced to live in a state of indeterminacy, never sure what rights you have and how you can guarantee protection of those rights.
We observe statelessness in collective gradual denationalizations such as with the Rohingya in Myanmar but also in highly individualized situations where national laws and policies exist to safeguard against statelessness but fail, in their implementation, to prevent statelessness. The UNHCR #IBELONG campaign catalogs the main ways a person can become stateless in its Global Action Plan to End Statelessness. These include birth to stateless parents, gender discrimination in nationality laws, lack of birth registration, deprivation of nationality, lack of documentary proof of nationality, state succession, and migration. The specific effects of statelessness on an individual are determined by national laws. One country might only provide education for those without nationality, while another country might limit work permits to those of certain nationalities.
As a part of a multi-year study of statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa, the International Human Rights Clinic has begun working to map statelessness in Tunisia. When we say map, we mean identify where cases of statelessness may present themselves, what legal protections exist that might protect people from becoming stateless, and what gaps in the current protection framework exist. To begin our research in Tunisia, we need to examine the laws that govern nationality, understand the political context around legal reforms, and study the protections instituted to reduce the risk of statelessness to vulnerable groups such as children, nomads, irregular migrants, or refugees.