Risks of statelessness in West and Central Africa

Published: 1/Nov/2023
Source: UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa

A study conducted by Stéphane Joële Teche Ndeno

The figures are alarming: throughout the world, more than 4,400,000 people are stateless or of undetermined nationality according to the Global Trends Report of 2022. More seriously, we note an overall increase in 90,800 stateless persons or persons of undetermined nationality compared to 2021. Based on the same source, West Africa is strongly affected by this phenomenon. Côte d’Ivoire alone has 931,076 stateless people. Statelessness studies conducted in the region indicate that millions of other individuals are at risk of becoming stateless if nothing is done.

A lack of a common understanding on risks of statelessness and the limited data on populations at risk of statelessness often complicates efforts to prevent and address such risks. The need to establish clear criteria to better understand the expression “person at risk of statelessness” or  “group at risk of statelessness” in West and Central Africa was essential in order to provide Governments, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relevant actors, the evidence for identifying and understanding the risks of statelessness. The objective is indeed to facilitate the reporting of persons/groups falling into this category in order to be able to advocate effectively in favor of activities to prevent and reduce statelessness, mobilize resources to meet their needs based on evidence-based qualitative data. It will also help define the roles and responsibilities of different actors (governments, development actors, UN, CSOs, etc.) and how these should work together for maximum results.

To achieve this, it was necessary to start from the definition of the risk of statelessness. Thus, a person or a group is said to be at risk of statelessness when they do not have civil status or identification documents to prove their nationality link with a State, or who have difficulty to do prove their nationality. On this basis, four (4) criteria that made it possible to identify 12 profiles were retained in the foreground, namely the legal, socio-economic (vulnerability), geographical (location or place of situation; migrant profile) and socio-cultural (the way of life). The occurrence of these risks of statelessness is the combination of factors relating essentially to administrative failures and conflicts. It is therefore relevant to resolve these administrative difficulties, particularly on the financial, technical (legal and IT) and communication levels. Conflicts must be avoided as much as possible and alternative ways of settling disputes must be favored to the detriment of the armed way.

Download: https://www.refworld.org/reference/regionalreport/unhcr/2023/en/147948


Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, Nationality and Refugees, Border Changes, Statelessness
Regions: Central Africa, West Africa
Year: 2023