RutgersModelUnitedNations 1 Policy Dilemma Subsequent statelessness is a title used to refer to a person who once held a nationality but has been stripped of his citizenship by the state to which they used to belong. 1 This form of statelessness roots from policy changes within a government, 2 a political upheaval that results in previously official documents no longer being recognized by the new national government or international community, 3 or a personal renouncement of one’s nationality without acquiring a new nationality. 4 The problem of statelessness and the concern of finding stateless people asylum or a new home is considered by the UN, as well as by many state governments, to be an issue of utmost importance. 5 Stateless people are often unable to find a job, provide healthcare for their family, or afford to send their children to school largely because they are restricted to a life within a state that denies responsibility for their care. For example, in Bangladesh, the Biharis are forced to live in one of sixty six camps spread across the country. 6 Within the camps, the two hundred fifty thousand to three hundred thousand Biharis are forced to find work that earns them less than one dollar a day. 7 On wages this low and in camps that are administered by the government of Bangladesh, Biharis are unable to escape the vacuum that has become their permanent home. A rather unique problem arises, however, with regards to subsequently stateless people, because in order to gain citizenship or be granted asylum, stateless people must prove that they are actually stateless. Simply lacking a passport is not enough for most countries. The role of the UNHCR plays is to issue travel documents in the hopes that 1 Weis, Paul, “Nationality and Statelessness in International Law,” Brill, 1979, Page 161-162. 2 Lynch, M., “Lives on Hold: The Human Cost of Statelessness,” Refugees International, Washington, D. C., February, 2005, 8. 3 Lynch, 17. 4 “Renunciation of U. S. Citizenship,” Section D., February 1, 2008. [Accessed on March 8, 2008 at http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship/citizenship_776.html] 5 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness,” December 4, 1954. 6 Lynch, M., 13. 7 Ibid., 15.
RutgersModelUnitedNations 2 stateless people will gain temporary visas in a host nation until they are able to solidify their nationality, although a serious stumbling block often keeps this process from moving forward. This hurdle is national sovereignty, and the increasing predilection of states who resent outside intervention has led the UNHCR to regard statelessness as “a private, internal problem” 8 that individual nations must fix independently. Yet it is also obviously a problem that requires international discussion to determine the best possible course of action. Unfortunately, the problem of statelessness is growing. According to Refugees International, there are at least eleven million stateless people throughout the world. 9 While the rights of stateless people are the designated responsibility of the UNHCR within the UN, it falls on sovereign states to determine their own policies regarding the admittance of or granting of asylum to stateless persons. 10 In addition, NGOs and citizens of other nations can help by lobbying for and supporting those already afflicted by this legal conundrum. The first solution to decreasing the number of stateless people is for member nations of the UN to “sign and implement the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.” 11 These conventions outline why a stateless person should be granted citizenship, either permanent or temporary, and how to ensure the quality of the process. Another solution is for all nations to register each birth that occurs within their borders. 12 While this solution is best to prevent statelessness from birth, it can help to keep a record for situations in which the person is stripped of citizenship later in life and forced to find another. The problem also finds valuable help through the active participation of NGOs. By strengthening the UNHCR, sovereign nations, and stateless people themselves, NGOs can help to provide a more stable base for stateless people while a longer-term solution is 8 UNHCR, “The World’s Stateless People: Questions and Answers,” 2006, 12. [Accessed on March 4, 2008 at http://www.unhcr.org/protect/46cc46ee2.html] 9 Lynch, Page 1. 10 UNHCR, “The World’s Stateless People: Questions and Answers,” 12. 11 Lynch, 25.