When asked about his past, Ousmane* hesitates, clearly reluctant to talk about it. He has suffered a great deal in his life, and it pains him to recount bad memories.
Once he realizes that his UNHCR visitors are friends, he begins to open up and tell his harrowing tale of life without a nationality. His recollections of childhood are hazy – he knows only that he was born in a small village in south-east Côte d’Ivoire, across the border from Ghana, that his mother was a citizen of Burkina Faso, or Burkinabé, and that his father disappeared when he was young.
But when asked what nationality he has, Ousmane cannot answer. Like many other children born in rural areas of Côte d’Ivoire, the 33-year-old was not registered at birth. He was born out of wedlock, but his mother died shortly after his birth and Ousmane’s father was never identified. He was raised in the Burkinabé community.