UN vows to end scourge of statelessness

Ten million people have no nationality, limiting access to education, medical care and travel

The child of a stateless family plays outside his makeshift home in an impoverished neighbourhood, east of the Saudi capital

The United Nations has launched a global campaign which aims to end the plight of statelessness within ten years.

People born without nationality are often deprived of education and medical care, and they may not be allowed to travel.

In some cases citizenship may be denied to specific ethnic groups within a country, the BBC reports, and in other cases people may slip between bureaucratic cracks.

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"Children born in refugee camps often have no entitlement to the nationality of the new country they are born in," it says, "and no chance of returning to the country of their parents to claim nationality there."

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is marking the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons with a series of events designed to "highlight the human face of statelessness" and persuade countries to grant nationality to all their stateless people.

What is the 1954 Convention?

This was the UN's first attempt at solving the problem of statelessness. It is a list of recommendations first prepared by the UN Economic and Social Council after the Second World War, and according to a report published by the UNHCR in 2003, it remains "the primary international instrument adopted to date to regulate and improve the legal status of stateless persons and to ensure to them fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination".

What will the UNHCR do to end statelessness now?

The UNHCR said it will establish a "series of dialogues with stateless people to better understand the impact of statelessness" and then "bring together policymakers, international organizations, NGOs and academics to discuss new research and policy perspectives to tackle some of the most pressing statelessness situations around the world".

The BBC reports that refugees' rights groups say that too little progress has been made on the issue.

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