- Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
The right to a nationality has been described as the “right to have rights”. Nationality is often a legal or practical requirement for the exercise of other fundamental rights, for example, access to education, property, or healthcare.
When people don’t have a nationality, they become stateless persons. Some people become stateless because of the break-up of states or lose their nationality unintentionally because of the laws within a country. Other people are deliberately made stateless, this often occurs in states where there are conflicts involving ethnic groups. Persons affected by this phenomenon include life-long residents of a state, nomads, minorities, and in some cases, specifically women. Since the universal declaration of Human Rights was adopted, there has been increasing recognition of the issue of statelessness. However, a recent survey on statelessness conducted by UNHCR has confirmed that no region is free of the problems which lead to statelessness. For example, Myanmar has a population of 50.3 million people. The country is also home to an estimated 495,939 stateless Rohingya, one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship. Their status as stateless exposes them to certain challenges like the exclusion from the census, refusing to recognize them as people, social exclusion, and the denial of human rights. They are additionally more vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation, detention, etc.
Written by Natalia Colmenar