UNHCR Campaign to End Statelessness Update July-September 2020
Extracts relevant to Africa:
Mobilizing governments and civil society
On 26 August, the Minister of Interior of South Sudan endorsed a National Action Plan to End Statelessness (NAP). The NAP includes the accession of South Sudan to the UN Statelessness Conventions and reform of the nationality law to bring it in line with international standards on statelessness.
On 20 July, the National Commission for Refugees of Burkina Faso (CONAREF) convened to discuss the legal framework for the introduction of a Statelessness Determination Procedure.
On 26 and 27 August, in Tunisia, UNHCR and the Arab Institute for Human Rights convened a workshop on the prevention of statelessness in the country. The workshop gathered a group of 15 Tunisian lawyers and judges to discuss current gaps in the nationality legislation, policies and practices. The importance of lifting Tunisia’s reservations to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness was highlighted as was the need to support adherence to the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Specific Aspects on the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa.
On 3 September, UNHCR and the African Committee on Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child launched a three-month pilot learning course on the eradication of childhood statelessness in the East and Horn of Africa. Participants from civil society and national human rights institutes are being equipped with the legal knowledge and tools to be able to monitor, report and advocate on issues relating to birth registration and nationality
Implementation of the Global Action Plan
In line with Action 1, Resolve existing major situations of statelessness, in July, members of the Pemba community in Kenya made submissions at a hearing of the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Kilifi County Assembly in relation to a petition they submitted in March. The Pemba are a stateless community who qualify for citizenship under Kenya’s nationality law but lack evidence to prove eligibility. A representative of the Pemba community shared how their lack of nationality impedes their effective enjoyment of rights, while local communities and government officials detailed how they live in peaceful cohesion with the Pemba community. In August, a field verification exercise among the Pemba community was carried out by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the local assembly and it is expected that the Committee will draft a report detailing their findings and making recommendations for the registration of the Pemba in Kenya.
Furthermore on Action 1, in August, a bill seeking the recognition of the Maragoli community as one of the indigenous communities under the Ugandan Constitution was tabled before the Parliament by a member of the National Assembly. The bill underwent its first reading and was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration. It will undergo scrutiny by the committee members, executive branch officials, UNHCR, and members of the public before the report is tabled back to parliament for the second reading.
Also in line with Action 6 [Grant protection status to stateless migrants and facilitate their naturalization], on 2 September, Côte d’Ivoire became the first country on the African continent to adopt a Statelessness Determination Procedure. The adoption of the SDP is in line with Strategic Objective 3.1 of the ECOWAS Banjul Action Plan against Statelessness and the country’s National Action Plan to Address Statelessness. A 2019 study identified 1.6 million people as stateless or at risk of statelessness in Côte d’Ivoire. The adoption of the SDP is a significant milestone which will help protect stateless people pending a nationality solution by allowing them to access basic rights.
Also in line with Action 7 [Ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness], with support from UNHCR, on 30 September the Government of Burkina Faso issued late birth registration to 21,665 individuals in the Center-North and Northern regions facing conflicts and risks of statelessness. The General Directorate for Modernization of Civil Status of Burkina Faso and UNHCR also signed an agreement to introduce electronic civil registration in 37 health centers to prevent statelessness, using the iCivil platform. These health centers are located in areas where civil registration and documentation services are difficult to access, including as a result of ongoing armed conflict. The project will also be implemented in border regions where a decision of the International Court of Justice has resulted in border demarcations following land disputes.
Furthermore on Action 7, UNHCR also supported the Sudanese Directorate of Civil Registry in resuming birth registration campaigns in a number of states including South Darfur, North Darfur and West Kordofan states. From August to September, a total of 4,895 children born to refugees, IDPs, returnees and host populations had their birth registered and were issued birth certificates.
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