This weekend the world meets to commit to the Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. For 10 million stateless people worldwide this will continue to be a dream as long as they are denied the nationality of any country.
The West African State of Liberia is one of 27 countries in the world that has legislation denying women the right to pass on their nationality to their children in the same way as men. This means children born to non-Liberian fathers and Liberian mothers outside of Liberia can be stateless if the father does not manage to pass on his nationality.
The identification of a child’s parents through official birth registration can be important to the parents’ ability to pass on nationality. In a region with very low levels of birth registration (in West and Central Africa only 47% of the births are estimated to be registered; in Liberia this figure is of 4%), the risk of statelessness is high.
Liberia has a stateless population in large part due to the high numbers of women who fled the country during its civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and gave birth to children, during their time in exile, with foreigners.
In Liberia, this has left an estimated 4,000 children inside Liberia potentially stateless and nearly 3,200 children outside the country potentially stateless; but the number could be higher.
Without a nationality, many of these children cannot go to school, receive medical care or travel freely outside of the country.
Their only chance of acquiring a nationality in Liberia is to wait until they are 18 years old (and before 23 years old) to be naturalized. This naturalization process costs $175 per person, which is far too expensive for many in a population that earns, on average, US $1.25-2 per day. Left without hope, they have few opportunities to live a normal childhood.
This is a story about Georgia Gage, a 36-year-old Liberian widow, and her three children who do not have a nationality.
Link to UNHCR website.