Statelessness in Southern Africa Newsletter Q3 2023

Published: 7/Nov/2023
Source: Southern Africa Nationality Network (SANN) and UNHCR


On August 16th SANN, SADC Alternatives to Detention Network (SADC ADT), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (Scalabrini), and the Centre for Child Law (CCL) participated in the annual SADC People’s Summit in Angola and hosted an event titled: “Decriminalising Identity: Intersection of Statelessness, Detention, and Migration Management in Southern Africa”.

The aim was to explore the intersections between the right to identity, migration management, and detention in the context of Southern Africa. The discussions revealed significant challenges in the region. Most African states have not updated their citizenship laws to reflect African notions of belonging, contributing to statelessness. Effective laws for preventing or protecting against statelessness are lacking, as is a consistent approach to identifying stateless people in the region. The event provided a platform for stakeholders, including those with lived experience of statelessness, to discuss collaborative efforts to address the issues of statelessness, detention, and migration in the region.

The following recommendations were made to SADC Heads of State:

  • to harmonise and domesticate all international and regional laws and standards relevant to the rights of undocumented persons, including stateless persons
  • to ensure that persons detained on the basis of their documentation status are treated humanely, regardless of their immigration status, nationality, gender, ethnicity, race, or other status
  • to implement mechanisms against the detention of undocumented persons, including mechanisms for non-custodial alternatives to detention
  • to implement measures to identify and resolve cases of persons with unknown nationality
  • to implement measures to preserve the identity of unaccompanied and separated children and young persons by:
    • registering the births of all children born in the territory of the state, regardless of their legal status or that of their parents.
    • establishing civil registry services in all SADC consular offices, including birth registration service and issuance of citizenship documents for nationals living abroad.
    • ensuring regional collaboration to obtain and record identity information and issuance of citizenship documents, passports, and visas where relevant.
  • to ensure the prompt adoption and domestication of the African Union Draft Protocol on the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa.

Read the full SADC People’s Summit Declaration here.

On 4th-5th September, the Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs, and Social Development of the African Union Commission (AUC), along with the Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC), the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), organized a workshop on the African Union Draft Protocol on the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa (“Draft Protocol”) and the international legal frameworks for preventing and eradicating statelessness on the continent. The event aimed to strengthen the knowledge and capacity of AUC staff and key stakeholders regarding nationality rights and the eradication of statelessness. Participants also engaged in discussions concerning feedback provided by AU Member States on the Draft Protocol during the Specialised Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in December 2022, and identified key priorities to be addressed before the upcoming extra-ordinary Specialised Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in November 2023. The participants reaffirmed that issues of statelessness and deprivation of nationality in Africa remain central concerns for the African Union. They recognised that statelessness in Africa is a multifaceted problem with humanitarian, human rights, and security implications and must be resolved to achieve the goals outlined in Agenda 2063.. While the Draft Protocol’s finalisation is expected to make a significant impact in reducing or eradicating statelessness in Africa, the proactive efforts of African Union Member States will be essential for its prompt adoption and ratification.


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Themes: Statelessness
Regions: Southern Africa
Year: 2023