To live without a nationality is to live a life in the shadows
04 November 2022
On the 8th anniversary of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness, UNHCR urges States to take action to resolve the plight of the world’s stateless.
Since 2014, when UNHCR launched the #IBelong campaign, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has made significant strides in resolving the issue of Statelessness, reducing the number of stateless persons, or those who do not have citizenship from around 1900 cases to 28 cases to date.
23-year-old Eldin from Sarajevo is one of 72 persons at risk of Statelessness who got their documents in 2022 with the support of UNHCR partner Vaša Prava BiH.
“I couldn’t believe that I got the birth and citizenship certificates. This feels like I am just born,” Eldin said after five years of the legal battle.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the risk of Statelessness is often caused by a person’s inability to prove their nationality due to excessive formalism to registering birth or confirming citizenship.
Eldin, a member of the Roma community, was at risk of Statelessness since his father never acknowledged paternity.
Without the paternity recognition procedure, Eldin could possibly acquire citizenship of his mother’s country of origin, who was a citizen of a neighbouring country. However, he had no connection with his mother’s country and no interest in getting citizenship other than BiH – the country where he was born and lived.
“To end Statelessness by the end of 2024 and prevent new cases from appearing, UNHCR advocates for BiH authorities to respect the basic premise that any child must be registered immediately upon birth, without administrative impediments. BiH authorities must especially support vulnerable persons, some of whom are not able to register their address or obtain identity documents,” said Lucie Gagné, UNHCR Representative in BiH.
With the help of the partner organization Vaša prava BiH, UNHCR has provided legal assistance to 1,886 stateless persons since 2008 – mainly assisting in the registration of births and citizenships and obtaining all necessary identification documents to request or confirm their citizenship.
Statelessness is still, unfortunately, a global issue. As of the end of 2021, UNHCR reported over 4.3 million people as being stateless or of undetermined nationality in 96 countries. This global estimate remains an undercount as data on stateless populations or those of undetermined nationality is missing or incomplete for many countries, including some with known stateless populations.
In 2019, a special segment was organized at the Global Refugee Forum, where 78 countries made promises to take 270 different actions to address cases of Statelessness in the world. Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with many other countries, committed, with the support of UNHCR, to end Statelessness by the end of 2024.
Given the small number of people at risk of becoming stateless, with some improvements in the legal framework and practices in the registration of births and citizenship, it is to be expected that BiH may achieve this goal in due time.