MPs agree on plan to tackle statelessness

03 December 2015 - 20:11
By TMG Digital
A general view of the National Assembly.
Image: EPA/NIC BOTHMA A general view of the National Assembly.

MPs from 40 national parliaments have agreed to push for more concerted efforts to address statelessness at the end of a global conference in Cape Town.

A problem which has a devastating impact on the lives of more than 10 million people globally‚ statelessness is an often under-reported and growing issue with one child born every 10 minutes without a nationality‚ according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

MPs at the conference organised by IPU‚ the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Cape Town‚ agreed to work to resolve statelessness in their own countries through a wide range of measures.

These included reviewing national legislation to ensure international standards on preventing and resolving statelessness were met‚ advocating reform of laws that discriminated on the basis of race‚ ethnicity‚ religion or gender‚ and the strengthening of parliamentary oversight of government policies on the issue.

The MPs also agreed to work towards accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions and called for more regional initiatives to end the phenomenon.

The need for greater parliamentary awareness of the issue was highlighted with some MPs committing to forming a group of parliamentary champions to end statelessness and promote UNHCR's #IBelong campaign on Twitter.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told the conference that solutions to the problem existed and lay in the hands of states. He stressed that MPs had a responsibility to act – and could not choose who to protect and who not to.

According to IPU‚ statelessness is caused by a variety of factors including discrimination‚ poor documentation and the redrawing of national boundaries. Most stateless people‚ it says‚ live in the territory in which they were born‚ but the dramatic rise in forced displacement across national borders is adding to the problem. Women and children are particularly vulnerable.

In addition to not “belonging” anywhere‚ stateless people are denied basic rights such as education and health‚ but the issue can be resolved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices‚ IPU says.

TMG Digital.