UNHCR Campaign to End Statelessness Update Oct – Dec 2023

Published: 1/Mai/2024
Source: UNHCR

Selected extracts relevant to Africa:


The Republic of Congo officially joined the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, fulfilling a commitment made at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness.

Sao Tome and Principe’s President signed a decree for the country’s accession to the two statelessness conventions, fulfilling an ExCom commitment made in October 2023.

Implementation of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness

Action 2: Ensure that no child is born stateless

In Niger, from 26 September to 7 October, in Niamey Region, the Ministry of Justice and UNHCR organized a workshop to exchange of best practices among judges, civil status officers, and child protection actors on providing children without parental references access to civil status and nationality documents. This workshop was a crucial step towards fulfilling Niger’s pledges made at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness, particularly the pledge to grant nationality to foundlings and stateless children born in Niger. The workshop recommendations will aid in effectively implementing this pledge.

Action 6: Grant protection status to stateless migrants and facilitate their naturalization

In Mali, the authorities have granted a favorable decision regarding the application for naturalization of 63 children from protracted  Mauritanian refugees at risk of statelessness. This brings the total number of naturalized people among the group since 2017 to 2,705. Most of them (2,377) are descendants of protracted Mauritanian refugees born in Mali, and 328 Mauritanian adults were naturalized before the suspension of the naturalization process for adults in 2018.

Action 7: Ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness

In Algeria, from October to December, UNHCR capitalized on the verification exercise (primarily targeting Syrians, Yemenis, and Palestinians). During this period, large sensitization sessions were organized that emphasized the critical significance of birth registration and birth certificates. Approximately 500 individuals, predominantly women and girls, participated in these sessions. Additionally, birth registration leaflets were systematically distributed during registration processes, reception days, and through health partners. Notably, several individuals were identified and referred for legal aid to address late birth registration or correction of birth certificates.

In Burkina Faso, in October, UNHCR assisted in establishing 20 secondary civil registration centers across the Centre-East and South-West  regions. This initiative aimed to streamline the birth registration process and facilitate the issuance of birth certificates, particularly in areas with a significant number of IDPs. From September to December, with UNHCR’s support, the General Directorate for the Modernization of Civil Status issued 15,449 birth certificates in nine crisis-affected regions, benefiting 4,635 members of the host population and 10,814 IDPs.

In Central African Republic, from 2 to 17 November, a joint mission by UNHCR and the National Committee for the Fight against Statelessness visited several sub-prefectures to enhance the capacities of 109 local authority representatives to address statelessness, which affects nearly a quarter of the population due to lack of documentation. The mission also sought to understand barriers to free birth registration and explore solutions. UNHCR facilitated the issuance of 689 birth certificates to refugee returnees and supported civil registration centers, in line with article 18 of Law No. 20.016, which encourages birth registration and prevents statelessness.

Chad’s pledge at the HLS in 2019 to “improve access to birth registration procedures, including late birth registration, by 2024 to ensure  universal birth registration”, during 2023, the National Agency for Secure Documents (ANATS), UNHCR’s statelessness partner, issued a total of 42,945 birth certificates to refugees, IDPs, and host community children through mobile courts across the country.

In Liberia, on 4 November, a multistakeholder coalition in Brewerville commemorated the 9th Anniversary of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness with the community in the Vox of Africa area. The event, which focused on birth registration, resulted in over 200 children from the community being registered and issued birth certificates by the Ministry of Health’s Birth Certificate team. This effort supplements the 8,000 birth certificates already issued by the coalition in Montserrado and Margibi counties, with a goal to process 10,000 birth certificates by the end of 2023.

In Malawi, from 24 to 25 October, UNHCR, in collaboration with various ministries, the police, immigration, the National Registration Bureau, UNICEF, and NGOs, conducted a two-day workshop. The aim was to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the birth registration of vulnerable children, including those abandoned, orphaned, refugees, street children, or others at risk of exclusion and statelessness. These SOPs will contribute to the ongoing revision of the National Registration Act.

In Rwanda, UNHCR, the Government of Rwanda, and Prison Fellowship Rwanda have intensified efforts to address the backlog of late birth registrations among protracted refugees. Stemming from the Rwandan government’s pledges on civil registration at the GRF and the High-Level Segment on Statelessness, have significantly increased the birth registration rate for refugees born in the country, from 74% at the end of 2022 to 93% by the end of 2023. Birth registration now occurs directly at health facilities through a digital Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system. The coverage of birth registration among refugee children under 5 has surged from 84% to 96% over the same period. All newborn refugees across all five camps had their births officially registered in 2023. In Nyabiheke Camp, which hosts over 12,400 Congolese refugees,40% of its current population was born in Rwanda. Through the efforts of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, all 4,954 refugees residing in Nyabiheke now hold certified birth registrations.

In South Africa, from 14 to 15 November, UNHCR organized a workshop with key government officials, including Refugee Commissioners, and local NGOs from the Kingdoms of Eswatini and Lesotho, aiming to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for registering the births of vulnerable children and determining citizenship. Once adopted, these SOPs will enhance birth registration practices.

Action 8: Issue nationality documentation to those with entitlement to it

In Burkina Faso, UNHCR’s technical and financial assistance in the Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-Est, Est, Sud-Ouest, Centre-Nord, and Nord regions enabled the issuance of 8,841 national identity cards—2,652 for host community members and 6,189 to IDPs. Similarly, in the Boucle du Mouhoun, Est, Sud-Ouest, and Centre-Nord regions, 546 nationality certificates were issued, 382 to IDPs and 164 to members of the host population.

In Chad, on 26 October 2023, at Kokolom IDP sites in the Bol region, 946 IDPs received their National Identity Cards for the first time. This brings the total number of ID cards issued to IDPs to 19,514 since the launch of the Project Partnership Agreement between UNHCR and the National Agency for Secure Documents (ANATS) in June 2021.

In Mauritania, the Government launched an enrolment exercise, through which nearly half a million individuals have been registered, including those at risk of statelessness, using streamlined and efficient procedures. Good practices include reducing evidentiary requirements and conducting mobile missions to isolated areas. UNHCR, in collaboration with its legal partner El Insaniya, actively engages with affected communities and other stakeholders. Support encompasses awareness campaigns and direct assistance to those seeking enrolment.

In Mozambique, from October to November, authorities, supported by UNHCR and the CatholicUniversity of Mozambique, documented 6,364 individuals in Cabo-Delgado and Zambézia. Through this exercise, authorities issued birth certificates to 1,627 children and national IDs to 4,737 adults. Additionally, national IDs were reissued to 4,715 victims of cyclone Freddy 2 and 1,649 individuals displaced by violence in northern Cabo-Delgado. UNHCR conducts daily sensitization activities on human rights, civil documentation, and statelessness risks, targeting both those seeking civil documentation and community members.

In Niger, UNHCR has intensified its advocacy with civil status authorities under the Ministry of Interior and Justice. The aim is to identify students, including IDPs in examination classes, and secure their Nigerien nationality certificates. These students had previously benefited from birth declaratory judgments during mobile court sessions held in Tahoua, Maradi, Diffa, Tillabéry, and Niamey. This initiative ensures that the most vulnerable students have access to nationality documents, thereby enabling them to fully exercise their right to education,  including participation in examinations.

In Zambia, in October, the Zambian Civil Liberties Union and other civil society organizations proposed a bill to Parliament aimed at  harmonizing the Citizenship Act No. 33 of 2016 with the Constitution. Presented to Parliament on November 1, the bill seeks to grant citizenship to individuals, including refugees, who have resided in Zambia for 10 years. It aims to align the Citizenship Act’s definition of “ordinarily resident” with the Constitution, bypassing the current requirement of a resident permit issued under the Immigration and Deportation Act, which is a barrier to citizenship for some groups.

Action 9: Accede to the UN Statelessness Conventions

The Republic of Congo, in October, officially acceded to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions. This act fulfilled a pledge made at the 2019 HLS on Statelessness in Geneva.

In Sao Tome and Principe, on 8 December, the President signed a decree marking the country’s accession to the two statelessness Conventions, fulfilling a commitment made during the ExCom in October 2023. The instruments of accession for these conventions are being deposited at the UN Treaty Office. The conventions will come into force in the country ninety days after the deposit, in accordance with Article 18, paragraph 2 of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and Article 39, paragraph 2 of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

Action 10: Improve quantitative and qualitative data on stateless populations

The UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa completed a study on the risks of statelessness in the region, which aimed to foster a common understanding of the concept of persons at risk of statelessness, establishing criteria for defining such individuals and profiling different groups facing statelessness risks. The key findings provide concrete elements for further exploration and prioritization at the country level. This multistakeholder approach aims to impact statelessness prevention activities, including advocacy, resource mobilization, identification and documentation of high-risk individuals, awareness raising, and alignment with the objectives of the #IBelong campaign.

In Kenya, from 6 to 11 November and from 17 November to 1 December, UNHCR organized a collaborative mission involving the Government Statelessness Focal Point from the Immigration Department, and NGO partners, including the Haki Center Organization and the Kenya Human Rights Commission. The objective was to initiate the mapping process for two distinct communities: the Rundi stateless community in Kwale and Taita Taveta, and the Rwandan community in Kericho, Bomet, and Sotik. The mission primarily focused on data collection to create a community self-register, thereby enhancing quantitative data related to the stateless population for evidence-based advocacy.

Download update: https://www.refworld.org/reference/news/unhcr/2024/en/147927

Themes: Acquisition par les enfants, Apatridie, Cartes d’identité et passeports, Enregistrement des naissances, Normes internationales, Naturalisation et le mariage, Nationalité des réfugiés
Regions: Algérie, Zambie, Mali, Burkina Faso, Afrique du Sud, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, République du Congo, Mauritanie, République Centrafricaine, Tchad, Niger, Mozambique, São Tomé & Príncipe
Year: 2023