Why is joining the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness as important today as ever in Southern Africa?
Source: Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)
By Valentin Tapsoba, UNHCR Director for Southern Africa
Mpho, 33, has lived in South Africa her entire life, yet she is stateless; she has no nationality. When she was found abandoned as a young child, the identity of her parents and her place of birth were unknown. In South Africa, as in most countries in the region, these are key pieces of information to prove one’s ties to a country, and exercise the right to citizenship. South Africa’s nationality laws do not ensure the right of foundlings to a nationality, leaving them stateless.
Like Mpho, Aisha, 50, has also been stateless her whole life. She is Karana, a minority group which has been present in the country for more than a century and traces its origins to pre-partitioned India, a country that no longer exists. Madagascar’s laws restrict access to nationality based on ethnicity, and don’t recognize the Karana, leaving Aisha and her parents stateless.
For Mpho and Aisha, statelessness did not end with them: Mpho had three children, Aisha had four, and their children have inherited their status. Tragically, families endure generations of statelessness despite having deep-rooted and longstanding ties to their communities and countries.