UNHCR Campaign to End Statelessness Update Apr-Jun 2021

Published: 9/Jul/2021
Source: UNHCR

Extracts relevant to Africa:

Mobilizing governments and civil society

On 25 May, the League of Arab States (LAS), in partnership with UNHCR, convened the virtual “Arab Regional Conference: Towards an Action Plan on Belonging and Legal Identity”. The conference resulted in the endorsement of a regional Action Plan to address statelessness, which will be referred to the Arab Interior and Justice Ministers Councils for final adoption. The Action Plan was developed to support the implementation of the 2018 Arab Declaration on Belonging and Legal Identity, which calls on States to ensure gender equal nationality rights and to uphold every child’s right to a name and a legal identity.

On 26 May, the Government of Kenya launched a 60-day Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) to expedite the re-acquisition of Kenyan nationality for those individuals who had lost it due to historical legislative changes, as well as the acquisition of nationality for other groups. The Government Taskforce on Statelessness subsequently confirmed that other stateless groups, including stateless persons of Rwandan descent, can benefit from the procedure. Since the announcement,  UNHCR and the Kenya Human Rights Commission have been collaborating with community leaders from stateless communities to explore how they can support them with their nationality applications.

On 16 April, in South Africa, the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights briefed the Department of Home Affairs on the increased risk of statelessness due to interruptions in birth registration services and the closure of citizenship services linked to COVID-19 mitigation measures. At the meeting, which was convened by the South African Human Rights Commission, the Department of Home Affairs committed to strengthen its engagement on these issues.

On 27 and 28 May, the Government of Namibia adopted a National Action Plan to End Statelessness. Among other actions, the National Action Plan foresees accession to the UN Statelessness Conventions, amendment of the legislative framework related to statelessness, a qualitative and quantitative study on  statelessness, and the naturalization and documentation of stateless populations in Namibia.

On 25 and 26 May, in Mbour, Senegal, the Ministry of Justice and UNHCR organized a workshop which resulted in the technical validation of the National Action Plan against Statelessness. It is expected that the National Action Plan will be officially adopted by the Government in the coming weeks, paving the way for more predictable engagement on statelessness issues.

On 22 June, the Government of Somalia launched its National Action Plan to End Statelessness, following a multi-stakeholder workshop held on 17 June. During the virtual launch event, the Minister of Interior reiterated the Government’s commitment to fulfil its pledges made at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness and further committed to conduct a review of Somalia’s Citizenship Law and strengthen its civil registration system.

On 17 and 18 May, UNHCR and the Ambassadors of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a virtual retreat. Among other issues, the retreat focused on promoting the effective implementation of pledges made by States at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness. States were urged to join the UN Statelessness Conventions, support legislative reforms in line with international standards to prevent and reduce statelessness, and establish Statelessness Determination Procedures.

In June, in Chad, UNHCR and Agence Nationale des Titres Securisées, the new Government entity responsible for civil registration, signed an agreement which will support the inclusion of stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality in the national civil registration and vital statistics system. The initiative will also improve statelessness statistics. As part of the agreement, the Government aims to deliver identity documents to IDPs and returnees at risk of statelessness and to register vital events for these groups.

On 27 May, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) hosted a virtual book launch of a children’s book on childhood statelessness: “The Girl Who Lost Her Country”. LHR collaborated with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion to translate the book into Zulu. The book is an important advocacy and educational resource.

Implementation of the Global Action Plan

In line with Action 1, Resolve existing situations of statelessness, the Government of Namibia issued a Cabinet Decision in April to naturalize all undocumented and stateless individuals who came to Namibia between 1977 to 1990. A similar Cabinet Decision was issued in 2010, covering all those who came to Namibia between 1930 to 1977.

On 14 and 25 May, in Morocco, UNHCR and the Law Faculties of Rabat, Oujda, and Casablanca organized three webinars on statelessness attended by close to 100 students and members of legal clinics. Participants were briefed on the causes and consequences of statelessness, the international legal framework on the protection of stateless persons, and the prevention of statelessness in the Moroccan context. The events aimed to raise awareness of statelessness among future law practitioners and o strengthen the capacity of legal clinics to assist migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in birth registration procedures.

From 14 to 16 April, in Côte d’Ivoire, UNHCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a training on Statelessness Determination Procedures (SDPs) for members of the recently established eligibility bodies. The eligibility bodies were installed following the adoption of an SDP in September 2020; they will commence their work as soon as cases are submitted by the Directorate for Relief and Assistance to Refugees and Stateless Persons.

From 21 May to 4 June, in Burkina Faso, 16,854 birth certificates were delivered to internally displaced persons and host communities in Boucle du Mouhoun, Northern, Eastern, South-Western and Hauts-Bassins regions. New border demarcations following rulings from the International Court of Justice, coupled with a drastically reduced number of functioning civil registration offices due to armed conflict, has led to heightened risks of statelessness in these parts of Burkina Faso.

In line with Action 7 and Action 8, Issue nationality documentation to those with entitlement to it, on 11 June, in Mozambique, UNHCR and the Catholic University employed mobile legal clinics to assist over 7,500 internally displaced persons at risk of statelessness in Cabo Delgado province in obtaining birth certificates and identity documents.

On Action 8, in South Sudan, UNHCR and the Directorate for Civil Registry, Nationality, Passports and Immigration in Bor assisted 695 individuals of the transborder Anyuak community in Poachella to apply for citizenship documents.

Media Impact of the Campaign

In Madagascar, in anticipation of the introduction of a bill for a new citizenship law in the National Assembly, the NGO Focus Development Association (FDA) called on its network of journalists to provide media coverage on the bill. The Members of Parliament who are the holders of the bill and FDA participated in various television and radio programs to discuss the issue. The bill was covered on the national TV channel TVM in its program “Lazao ny marina” (“Tell the truth”) on 12 May, on the TV channel RTA in the program “Ca me dit” on 22 May, during the news program of the radio station Antsiva on 27 May, and during a special broadcast on TV Plus on 3 June.

In South Africa, the issue of statelessness received media coverage on different channels. On 22 March, the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) issued an op-ed on universal birth registration and persisting challenges in South Africa. On 24 April, LHR was interviewed by The Saturday Star on the human rights consequences of the Namibian Government’s refusal to issue travel documents to twin babies born to a surrogate mother in South Africa. On 26 May, LHR was interviewed by CNBC Africa on access to COVID-19 vaccines for undocumented people in South Africa.

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Themes: Acquisition by children, International standards, Birth Registration, Naturalisation and Marriage, ID Documents and Passports, Statelessness
Regions: Chad, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, South Sudan, International, North Africa, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, West Africa, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal
Year: 2021