Statelessness of millions of minority people must be addressed urgently, says UN human rights expert

GENEVA, March 13, 2019 — Millions around the world are deprived of citizenship because they belong to specific minorities, increasing their vulnerability and exclusion, says a UN human rights expert.

“The horrific human tragedies and the humanitarian crisis involving the one million or so members of the Rohingya minority who are stateless highlight the extent of the issue,” UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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“There are also potentially some four million Bengali and other minorities who could end up being deemed non-citizens in India’s Assam State.

De Varennes also expressed concerns about the removal of citizenship from individuals, who are usually members of certain minorities and considered politically unacceptable or undeserving.

“Statelessness is first and foremost a minority issue because more than three quarters of the world’s official 10 million stateless people are from minorities. The consequences and prospects for them, their children and generations of their descendants could be dismal and tragic,” he said.

“Without citizenship, people who are stateless become humans without rights. The reality for millions of displaced people, refugees, minorities and those who are stateless is exclusion and discrimination, as they are not able to claim rights as citizens of a state.

“The result for them and possibly future generations is poverty, despair and resentment, which undermines for all of us the very universality of the human rights we proclaim.”

The Special Rapporteur urged States, regional and international organisations and civil society to urgently work to address the issue.

He also informed the Council of new initiatives including the drafting of much-needed practical guidelines that recognise and address the root causes of statelessness, and ways to tackle the human rights issues that are at its core, pointing to the UNHCR’s “ibelong” campaign aimed at eradicating statelessness by 2024.

Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.