Why Should We Care About Statelessness?

Raquel J.

no picture Raquel J.
Se registró el día July 8, 2013
  • 9 Artículos
  • Edad 20

According to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) and most nations, we are all citizens. Nevertheless, many human communities have been suffering the effect of a phenomenon called “statelessness”.

The statelessness is little-known in everyday life by many of us, who live in developed countries, but in five continents this injustice occurs. The statelessness means that a person does not have any nationality, he/she does not belong to any country legally, and consequently, he/she lives without rights. For instance, the impossibility of getting a job is considered stateless de iure. Stateless de facto is when a person isn’t rejected by legislation, but he/she is kept without rights.

This social reality is produced by countless causes, but the most important are:

1- Emergence of a new country after the disappearance of another (an example is Estonia, where there is a big Russian group suffering the statelessness after Soviet Union’s dissolution).

2- Social group’s settlement in border or cross-border area, so that it isn’t recognized by either of involved countries.

3- Lack of register of births due to the State’s administrative mistakes, or because of ignorance about this fact, especially in underdeveloped places.

4- Renunciation of nationality without the other. It's an unusual phenomen: it sometimes occurs with political refugees or people who escape from a nation due to variety of reasons such as- ideological, social (some political dissidents after Cuban Revolution in 1959 were stateless de facto: they hadn't rights in Cuba), or climatic (when there is a natural disaster in a country and natives left).

5- Rejection towards an ethnic group due to several reasons: religious, social, political.

This last circumstance stands out, especially in countries which are is little development and progress with a traditional mind. We can understand it by means of an example: Rohingya’s situation.

A very polemic occurrence, but not much well-known in some areas, is Rohingya’s history. It’s an ethnic Muslim community that lives in Burma (also renowned as Myanmar), near Bangladesh. The settlement took place about 7th century in Ancient Arakan (nowadays Rakhine State). These people were traders from the current Mongolia, Arabian countries and Bengal (divided between Bangladesh and India). Nevertheless, the biggest migrations were during the British occupation in the 19th century.

Rohingya were deprived of their citizenship in 1982 by Burma, due to ethnic and religious difference. They are Muslim, while the majority religion in that area, Rakhine, was Buddhist. Another reason is British colonization. European people enslaved and were violent with this society (also with Rohingya from British India and Burma). Recruitment with very poor salaries and long working days in colonial administration and trades were other factors which cause natives' rejection, who excuse this discrimination calling them “Bengali immigrants.”

So, as of that year, Rohingya had to survive without assistances, opportunities and services. They did not have health care or education. They paid high taxes and had inescapable jobs, restrictions on marriages. They had jobs and movements in the country; moreover, others had unofficial executions (there are other negative consequences). Other aspects are policies in Rakhine, which established a maximum of two sons. Furthermore, women didn't have medical care and a lot of them suffered sexual aggression and violence. All these actions go against established regulations in Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen (1789) and in UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) by United Nations (UN) in 1948.

Situation Now:

For this reason, this violation to human rights has produced that many rohingya could feel obliged to go into exile from Burma, that is, it's a way of survival. Due to a lack of resources, they have had to take refuge in neighbouring countries (specially Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia) which, because of diplomatic and international conflicts as well as some countries' rejection, have obstructed this move. In this respect, Bangladesh is the nation that has received more rohignya (due to similar language), and it has treated them with severity, since they are obliged to pay in order to penetrate there. Therefore, they are sent to precarious regions, or are returned to Burma, because Bangladesh and other nations have insisted on end of abuses, denouncing military government of Burma for a lot of years. One of the reasons of this pressure is lack of will to accept them: they don’t want to take measures aimed at legitimize as “refugees” and help with protection.

Consequently, these events, which have happened for twenty years, caused violent rebel actions by armed rohingya groups’ formation, as well as weakening, especially in women and children. Right now, after thirty years without a census in Burma, the country is going to do one and it’s possible the fact that rohingya aren’t. It would be an important infraction within international law: an ethnocide. This violation will cause a reduction of opportunities and personal and community development which will complicate the access to appropriate quality of life and to other rights, like religious tolerance or medical attention,as well as an equal behaviour in Burma, but as they were foreigners, such as Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons in 1954, specifically in article 7, by United Nations.

Thus, in order to finish with these injustices, international organisations, such United Nations and specialized institutions, specially UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and other, are trying to establish an agreement with government in order to allow arrival of helps (physical and monetary), and they have got, according to Burmese government’s promises, society’s inclusion within census.

To sum up, statelessness is a social phemonen which concerns all Humanity and it must be combated by political leaders around the world and in all countries, on a small and large scale.

Without us, human beings are nothing, and it's the essence: progress, union and equality without borders.

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