UN hails Lanka on ending statelessness

By admin on November 4, 2014 – 16:00

UNHCR1The UN refugee agency says Sri Lanka successfully managed to address the issue of statelessness by initiating a series of legislative changes.

UNHCR noted that starting from 1986 Sri Lanka allowed formerly stateless populations like the Tamils of Indian origin who were brought in the 1800s to work on tea plantations and a small ethnic Chinese population that had been in the country since the 1930s to access citizenship.

UNHCR is today launching a global “I Belong” campaign aimed at ending within 10 years the problem of statelessness – a devastating legal limbo for the millions of people worldwide who lack any nationality and the human rights protections that go with it. The goal of eradicating statelessness is looking increasingly possible thanks to dramatic recent progress in the number of States acceding to two key UN human rights treaties.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie  and more than 20 celebrities and world opinion-leaders today published an Open Letter, saying that 60 years after the United Nations first agreed to protect stateless people, “now it’s time to end statelessness itself.”

At least ten million people worldwide are currently stateless and a baby is born stateless every ten minutes. Not allowed a nationality, they are often denied the rights and services that countries normally offer their citizens.

“Statelessness can mean a life without education, without medical care or legal employment… a life without the ability to move freely, without prospects or hope,” the Open Letter said. “Statelessness is inhuman. We believe it is time to end this injustice.”

UNHCR’s Special Envoy Angelina Jolie was among the first to sign the Open Letter. “Being stateless means you and your children having no legal identity, no passport, no vote, and few or no opportunities to get an education. Ending statelessness would right these terrible wrongs.  But it would also strengthen society in countries where stateless people are found, by making it possible to draw on their energy and talents. It is both an obligation and an opportunity for governments everywhere to put an end to this exclusion.” (Colombo Gazette)

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