NEWS

2014-09-24 | News
UNHCR Organizes a Round-Table on Identification and Protection of Stateless Persons

The Representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Armenia, jointly with The Police of the Republic of Armenia (RA Police) organised a Round-Table on ‘’Identification and Protection of Stateless Persons: the introduction of stateless status determination procedures’’ which was held on 24 September 2014 in Yerevan. The Round Table was organised in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons to which Armenia accessed in 1994. This occasion served as a reminder of the existence of the millions of stateless people who are hidden and forgotten around the world. It is inspiring that the commemoration is in accord with a positive move in Armenia with regard to the Armenian Government more closely focusing on the issue of statelessness through identification and protection of stateless persons. 

Under its statelessness mandate UNHCR closely works with governments, other UN agencies and civil society to address the problem of statelessness through (I) Identifying stateless persons and gathering information on statelessness, its scope, causes and consequences (ii) Preventing statelessness through addressing its causes (iii) Reducing occurrence of statelessness by supporting legislative changes and improvements to allow stateless people to acquire a nationality (iv) Protecting stateless persons through intervening to help them exercise their rights.

In his welcoming remarks Mr. Christoph Bierwirth, UNHCR Representative in Armenia, said: ‘’Nationality might seem like a universal birthright, but an estimated 10 million people are living without it. These stateless people have no legal identity, are citizens of no country and are some of the most vulnerable and invisible people in the world.’’ ‘’Without nationality, stateless people are often unable to enjoy a wide range of rights e.g. to register the birth of a child, go to school, work legally, travel freely, own property or obtain vital identity documents or passports. Statelessness prevents people from fully participating in society and leaves them without a sense of identity and with little or no voice.’’, Christoph Bierwirth added.

The round-table coincided with development of draft legislation by the RA Police designed to address the identification and protection of stateless persons, and UNHCR has been continuingly supporting the Police in this initiative. Once the new legislation is passed the authorities will start developing detailed guidance to regulate the stateless determination procedures. 

‘’In situations where it is not always possible to immediately resolve statelessness, the RA authorities  will have in place a procedure to ensure the proper identification of stateless persons and the full enjoyment of their rights in accordance with Armenia’s international obligations.”, Mr. Misha Sardaryan, Head of Passport and Visa Department of the RA Police, said.

The round-table discussion brought together local and international experts, governmental agencies, RA National Assembly members, international organisations, the civil society and NGO-s. The participants learnt about experience and shortcomings by countries with a recent history of adoption of stateless determination procedures, in particular, Georgia and Moldova. Issues like Armenia’s international obligations and rationale behind legislative provisions, as well as, key concepts and roles in the protection of stateless persons were touched upon during the event. The participants brainstormed about statelessness related various issues such as problems of cooperation with other states, identification of undocumented applicants, UNHCR’s and NGOs roles, and the link with asylum procedures.

Based on the proposals and recommendations made at the Round Table a UNHCR – RA Police joint report will be prepared and circulated to the participants. The report will be followed by concrete steps towards improved identification and protection of stateless persons.  

The UNHCR Representation in Armenia jointly with the RA Police calls Armenian people for solidarity and cohesion in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons.   

 

“I am like a bird with nowhere to rest on the ground but which can’t spend his whole life in the sky.”

- Yasser, stateless

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