The members of the Parliament of Mali gathered on Wednesday 16 December to adopt the texts on the accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Mali becomes the 10th Member State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to accede to the 1954 convention and the 9th ECOWAS member State to accede to the 1961 convention.
« UNHCR commends Mali’s decision to accede to the international conventions relating to statelessness. This is a historic vote, which is the achievement of a long process conducted in close cooperation with the government of Mali,” observes Ousséni Compaoré, UNHCR representative in Mali.
On 25 February, at a joint UNHCR/ECOWAS Ministerial Conference hosted by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, the Government of Mali had expressed its intention to ratify these instruments, and had set an inter-ministerial committee on statelessness in November 2014 in order to coordinate statelessness related activities in the country.Some 13,000 Mauritanian refugees are living in the region of Kayes today, in the western part of Mali. Most of them fled their country of origin following inter-community violence in 1989. A campaign for the delivery of birth certificates by Malian authorities took place throughout 2015 with the support of UNHCR. This operation had a significant impact on the respect of the human rights of Mauritanian refugees and the prevention of statelessness. With the support of UNHCR, the authorities already delivered 7,805 birth certificates to Mauritanian refugees, putting an end to the risk of becoming stateless that they were facing until then.
Although Mali’s accession to the conventions relating to statelessness is a major step forward towards preventing this phenomenon, UNHCR remains committed to further cooperating with the government on the issue. “The next step is now the issuance of the implementation decree of these texts, then the revision of the existing law that could generate a risk of statelessness”, explains Guy-Rufin Guernas, the head of UNHCR’s protection section in Bamako. “We need to go through the code of nationality in order to put it in line with the conventions on statelessness”, adds the member of Parliament Alkeïdou Toure, rapporteur of the law commission on statelessness.
Statelessness refers to people who are not recognized as the citizens of any State, including the one in which they live. This constitutes a widespread issue affecting around 10 million people worldwide, including close to a million people stateless or at risk of statelessness in West Africa. Statelessness has a terrible impact on the life of affected people. Without a nationality, they are often subject to life in limbo, with limited access to education, healthcare, or employment.
UNHCR launched on 04 November 2014 a Campaign to Eradicate Statelessness around the world in the next ten years and encourage States to ratify both conventions on statelessness. Today, 84 States worldwide are signatories to the 1954 convention and 62 States have ratified the 1961 convention.