What is a Refugee?
59,500,000 Forcibly Displaced People in 2015
In June 2011 the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) estimated the number of displaced people to be 42.5 million of which 15.1 million are refugees. The majority of refugees who leave their country seek asylum in neighbouring countries. The definition of refuge has been expanded to include descendants of refugees, in the case of two specific groups: Palestinian refugees and Sahrawi refugees. Currently, the UN does not consider refugee status to be hereditary for any other groups. At the end of 2014, there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide (14.4 million under UNHCR's (The UN Refugee Agency) mandate, plus 5.1 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) mandate).
The 14.4 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.7 million more than at the end of 2013 (+23%), the highest level since 1995. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. As of February 2015, Turkey has become world's biggest refugee hosting country having 2.2 million Syrian and 300.000 Iraqi refugees Iraqi refugees and had spent more than US$7.6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.
Pakistan is second, hosting 1.6 million Afghan refugees. According to the UNHCR there are 200,000 to 500,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and only 32,355 of them are registered. The religious, sectarian and denominational affiliation has been an important feature of debate in refugee-hosting nations.
What are Stateless People
‘No Passport. No Country. No Place to Call Home. ’
Statelessness refers to the condition of someone who is not considered as a national by any country. To understand how a person can lack a nationality, it helps to know how nationality works in practice. In simple terms, you acquire a nationality automatically at birth or you obtain one later on in life.
Those who acquire nationality at birth do so because they were born in a country that gives nationality through birth on their territory (jus soli) or because their parents were able to transmit their nationality to their children (jus sanguinis), which usually applies regardless of where the child was born.
Sometimes, however, people need to apply to become a national of a country and base their application on years of residence or a family link with the given country.
The international legal definition of a stateless person is set out in Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which defines a stateless person as "a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law".
This means that a stateless person is someone who does not have a nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, while others become stateless over the course of their lives.
One major cause of statelessness is the existence of gaps in a country's legal regime relating to nationality. Every country has a law, or laws, which establish under what circumstances one acquires nationality or can have it withdrawn. If nationality laws are not carefully written and correctly applied, some people can be excluded and left stateless. An age-old example is children found in a country who are of unknown parentage (foundlings).
If nationality can only be acquired based on descent from a national, these children can be left stateless. Fortunately most nationality laws avoid this and recognize them as nationals of the state in which they are found. Another factor that makes matters more complicated is that many people move from the countries where they were born. Unless a country of origin permits a parent to pass on nationality through family ties, then a child born in a foreign country risks becoming stateless if that country does not permit nationality based on birth in the territory alone. Finally the rules setting out who can and who cannot transmit their nationality are sometimes discriminatory.
- The laws in 27 countries do not let women pass on their nationality, while some countries limit citizenship to people of certain races and ethnicities.
- A second important reason that statelessness occurs is the emergence of new states and changes in borders. In many cases, specific groups may be left without a nationality as a result of these changes.
- Even where new countries would allow nationality for all within the territory, ethnic, racial and religious minorities frequently have trouble proving their link to the country.
- In countries where nationality is only acquired by descent from a national (jus sanguinis), then this means that statelessness will be passed on to the next generation.
- Statelessness can also be caused by a loss or deprivation of nationality.
- In some countries, citizens can lose their nationality simply from having lived outside their country for too long.
- States can also arbitrarily deprive citizens of their nationality through changes in law that leave whole populations stateless, using discriminatory criteria like ethnicity or race to define who and who does not belong to a state.