Extracts relevant to Africa:
Mobilizing governments and civil society
In Togo, UNHCR and the National Assembly organized an information session on statelessness for 80 Members of Parliament on 5 November, which was an opportunity to advocate for the acceleration of law reform to remove sex discrimination from the nationality law.
In Zambia, the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees, the National Registration Passport and Citizenship Office and UNHCR organized a ceremony in Lusaka to distribute birth certificates. During the event, which was attended by various media houses, the government emphasized the importance of birth registration and identity documents.
On 7 December, in East Africa, UNHCR organized a side event on the margins of its regional dialogue on refugee protection with the East African Community and Intergovernmental Authority on Development to launch UNHCR’s report “Citizenship and Statelessness in the Horn of Africa”. The report identifies the risk factors in law, policy and practice that give rise to statelessness and provides an overview of the groups at risk of statelessness in Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
On 10 December, in South Sudan, members of South Sudan’s Working Group on Statelessness have commenced discussions on the reform of the Citizenship Act with a view to introducing safeguards to prevent statelessness. This aligns with a pledge made by the government of South Sudan at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness to introduce such safeguards.
In October 2021, in Somalia, the Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation established the Department of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics. The new Department is tasked with accelerating and supporting the development of the civil registration system and the production of vital statistics contributing to the prevention of statelessness.
On 19 November, in Southern Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights conducted a virtual training for members of the judiciary on adjudicating nationality rights. The training aimed at building the capacity of judges to address statelessness and to share developments in international and regional jurisprudence on statelessness.
On 29 and 30 September, also in South Africa, the Southern African Nationality Network and UNHCR co-hosted a virtual civil society engagement meeting on the eradication of statelessness in Southern Africa. The event was attended by civil society organizations from across the region and aimed at strengthening the role of civil society in addressing statelessness. The participating organizations developed a draft action plan to support states in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in their efforts to eradicate statelessness. The organizations also submitted an appeal to SADC states, calling on members to accede to the UN Statelessness Conventions and to adopt a regional action plan on statelessness.
From 2 to 4 November, in Lomé, Togo, the Commissions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC), with UNHCR organized a regional gathering of governments and UNHCR focal points to discuss a draft model law on statelessness determination procedures and protection of and solutions for stateless people. Once finalized, the model law will support the efforts underway in ten countries in the regions covered by the Commissions to adopt dedicated statelessness determination procedures. The organization of the event is in line with ECOWAS’ commitment in the 2017 Banjul Plan of Action to facilitate the implementation of the 1954 Convention in West Africa. The gathering was covered by various media outlets, including Africa News, Africavi and Agence Société Civile Médias.
On 9 and 10 September, in Burkina Faso, UNHCR participated in the review of the existing legal framework governing civil registration in the country to ensure that the revised legal framework will reflect commitments made by the Government to strengthen its civil registration system to prevent statelessness. It is anticipated that a new law will be adopted in 2022.
From 7 to 9 December, UNHCR and the Ministry of Justice of Guinea organized a workshop with government officials and civil society to discuss a draft law on the protection of stateless people which would provide for the establishment of a statelessness determination procedure. Participants developed a roadmap towards the adoption of the draft law.
Implementation of the Global Action Plan
In line with Action 2, Ensuring that no child is born stateless, the court of first instance of Dabou, Côte d’Ivoire, issued a judicial decision which clarifies that individuals who were born to unknown parents and found as a child on the territory can obtain the nationality of Côte d’Ivoire even if a nationality application is submitted in adulthood. This marks an important development in case law as previously nationality was only granted to foundlings where the application was submitted when the person in question was still a child. Côte d’Ivoire acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 2013 which require States Parties to grant nationality to stateless foundlings.
On 2 December in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the National Commission for Eligibility to Stateless Person Status held its first session, after being created in September 2020. The commission examined three cases of persons applying for statelessness status and recommended statelessness status for one of the applicants. In total, 48 cases have thus far been registered.
In Guinea Bissau, on 21 October, the revised draft of the Refugee and Stateless Status Law was approved by the Council of Ministers. UNHCR participated in the drafting of the revised law which includes provisions for the protection of stateless people and the establishment of a statelessness determination procedure. The next step will be the submission of the revised law to the National Assembly for approval.
In line with Action 7, Ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness, in Nigeria, from 15 to 19 November the National Population Commission, with support from UNHCR, organized a birth registration exercise for Bakassi returnees in Cross River State. This population group moved back to their native states after territory was ceded to Cameroon in 2005 and are at risk of statelessness. The exercise resulted in the registration of over 2,300 returnee children who were subsequently issued birth certificates. While the initial age limit was set at five years, it was extended to 17 years after appeals from the returnee community to the National Population Commission.
In line with Action 7 and Action 8, as of November, UNHCR and the Catholic University of Mozambique have supported over 15,000 people at risk of statelessness in Cabo Delgado Province in obtaining birth certificates and identification cards. The population who was assisted included both displaced and host communities.
In line with Action 8, Issue nationality documentation to those with entitlement to it, in Mauritania, UNHCR and its legal partner recently launched a legal assistance program for returnees from Senegal who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining a national identity document. Since the launch of the program in May 2021, twenty-six individuals have obtained civil documentation after being assisted with various administrative and judicial procedures.
On 28 September, the civil registration authorities of Chad issued national identity cards to 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) at risk of statelessness who live on the border with Nigeria. The identification project is part of a partnership agreement between the civil registration authorities and UNHCR which is supporting the process. The project is ongoing and as of 25 November, close to 4,800 identity cards to IDPs at risk of statelessness have been issued, which is 85% of the planned figure under this project. Several news outlets reporting on the project, including Nouvelles.TD and Le Sahel.