By Taiye Edeni/Uche Bibilari
Abuja – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday that at least 10 million people around the world were stateless with thousands of them living in the West Africa sub-region.
Mr Roger Hollo, Deputy, UNHCR Representative to Nigeria disclosed this during an Interactive Session with ECOWAS Permanent Representatives Committee on Statelessness in Abuja.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a stateless person is one not considered a national by any state under the operation of its law, meaning that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country,
While some people are born stateless, others can become stateless.
According to him, UNHCR believes that statelessness can be resolved if ECOWAS countries will implement the Abidjan Declaration by developing an action plan to eradicate or prevent statelessness.
“While definite statistics on stateless persons cannot easily be provided, UNHCR estimates that at least 10 million people around the world are stateless.
“Many hundreds of thousands live in West Africa, where many more are believed to be at risk.
“The phenomenon remains largely unknown. Statelessness can mean a life without education, without medical care, or legal employment.
“It can mean a life without the ability to move freely, without prospects or hope.
“Stateless people are often denied the rights and services that countries normally offer their citizens.
“The goal of eradicating statelessness is looking increasingly possible thanks to dramatic recent progress in the number of states acceding to the two key UN human rights treaties.
“In 2011, there were barely 100 state parties to the two statelessness treaties – the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
“UNHCR believes that statelessness can be resolve.
“In the four years since the launch of UNHCR global #ibelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024, the ECOWAS region has worked toward achieving the goals set out in the campaign,” he said.
He added that in 2015, ECOWAS countries signed the Abidjan Declaration on the Eradication of Statelessness in ECOWAS members states, followed by the Banjul Plan of Action in 2017.
Hollo said that ECOWAS could play a key role in keeping the momentum in the region, with a focus on legal reforms within its member states to prevent and address statelessness.
“It is my hope that the outcome of this session will enrich our advocacy campaign.
“UNHCR remains fully committed to this cause and ECOWAS remains crucial in ensuring success in eradicating statelessness,” he added.
Amb. Alat Mogaskia, the Chairman of ECOWAS Ambassadors, said that during the 2019 ECOWAS Ambassadors’ Retreat in April, the envoys deliberated on important regional issues, one of which was statelessness.
He said that UNHCR and ECOWAS provided a general overview of the issue, the root causes, progress made so far with reference to the adoption of the Abidjan Declaration and Banjul Plan of Action as key milestones toward the eradication of statelessness in the ECOWAS region.
“In the course of discussions, it was made clear that there was need for increased sensitisation on the concept of statelessness and its consequences on the lives of affected persons.
“It was recommended that UNHCR and ECOWAS hold further consultations to that effect, and that is the primary reason for this workshop.
“The 2016 Abidjan Declaration by ECOWAS Ministers on the reduction of statelessness in the region and the Banjul Plan of Action of 2017 are pointers that the region is making progress in tackling the problems,” he noted.