GENEVA: The United Nations said on Saturday that 4.4 million people worldwide are known to be stateless, although the true figure would be significantly higher due to their relative “invisibility”.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said statelessness was having a “devastating impact” on those left stateless, as it called for more to be done to combat such exclusion.
Stateless people who are not recognized as citizens of any country are often denied human rights and access to basic services, leaving them often politically and economically marginalized and vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and abuse, UNHCR said.
“At least 4.4 million people in 95 countries are believed to be stateless or stateless,” the agency said in a statement.
“The global figure is widely acknowledged to be significantly higher given the relative invisibility of stateless persons in national statistical exercises.”
A disproportionate number of the world’s stateless people are members of minority groups, for whom statelessness perpetuates and exacerbates the discrimination and marginalization they already face, UNHCR said.
“Although statelessness has many causes, in many cases it can be solved with simple legislative and policy changes. I call on countries around the world to take immediate action to ensure that no one is left behind,” said UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi.
The figures came as UNHCR marked the ninth anniversary of its IBelong campaign on the issue.
In 2023, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Macedonia, Portugal and Tanzania are said to have made significant steps forward on statelessness, while the Republic of Congo became the last country to accede to statelessness conventions.
A total of 97 countries are now signatories to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and 79 are parties to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
“Progress in the fight against statelessness is positive and we commend countries for taking action. But this is not enough,” said Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“With global forced displacement on the rise, millions remain on the margins, deprived of their basic human rights, including participation and contribution to society. This exclusion is unfair and needs to be addressed.”
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