Source: Boston University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic
Egypt is home to over a hundred million people and hosts an unknown number of refugees and migrants, with estimates of several million. Among them are potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless. As many basic human rights and social entitlements – such as access to employment, education, and healthcare – are linked to citizenship and legal status, the ongoing problem of statelessness in Egypt leaves a large number of people vulnerable to violations of their rights. It is important to note that Egypt is party to numerous international and regional human rights agreements that incorporate obligations to protect the right to a nationality.
Egypt has taken meaningful steps to address statelessness – foremost among them are Egypt’s recent changes to its nationality law. Following a civil society-led advocacy campaign, Egypt reformed (in 2004 and 2011) its gender-discriminatory nationality law by extending citizenship to children born to Egyptian mothers, affecting what one source estimated to be between 400,000 to over one million children born to foreign fathers. Egypt subsequently enshrined these reforms in the 2014 Constitution, and has played an important role in promoting more gender equal nationality laws at the regional level through the League of Arab States (LAS). Moreover, Egypt has a very high birth registration rate, frequently cited as covering approximately 99% of its population. Yet systemic barriers to citizenship faced by both ‘undocumented’ Egyptian nationals and refugee, displaced, and migrant populations, demonstrate the gap between current domestic law and the reality of statelessness in Egypt, in comparison to its international and regional obligations.
Statelessness is an ongoing global problem; in 2014 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched the #iBelong Campaign with the goal of ending statelessness by 2024. UNHCR’s goal is to mobilize states, international and regional intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and civil society organizations including international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to act to prevent statelessness. In 2019, the High-Level Segment on Statelessness recorded over 360 pledges to combat statelessness, including pledges by 252 states. Despite its work addressing statelessness within the LAS, Egypt made no such pledge, as the sole country to do so from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was Mauritania. Notwithstanding the severity of the issue of mapping vulnerabilities to statelessness among non-migrant/refugee populations with a focus on ‘undocumented Egyptian nationals,’ as well as those who are legally stateless.
Download report: Campaign to End Statelessness Egypt BU 2022