UNHCR Wants Adjustment in Liberia Nationality Law
In Profile Daily, 04 Nov 2015
By Mafanta Kromah, email@example.com
The UNHCR continues to intensify efforts to end and prevent statelessness. Statelessness, in this context, is a situation in which a person is without nationality or citizenship; something UNHCR describes as human rights violation.
Addressing a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday to mark the 1st Anniversary of the “I Belong” Campaign to end statelessness, Deputy Representative for UNHRC-Liberia, Ioli Kimyaci, said “Being denied a nationality is a grave human right violation…”
According to Kimyaci, 10 million persons around the world do not have nationality; thus, yearly, 700,000 babies are born stateless. She added: “These babies grow up without access to quality education, medicate care, voting right, legal employment; that means they will have no legal identity, no passport and no opportunity to get married. They will be destined to a life without prospects or hope.”
While Liberia's constitution recognizes the right of all Liberians to pass on their nationality, Kimyaci pointed out that the country's Alien and Nationality Law restricts mothers with children born outside Liberia with foreign husbands to pass on their nationality to their children. She expressed frustration that these children have to reach the age of 18 to swear their allegiance before obtaining their nationality.
The UNHCR Official said many women and children in the country do not know the intricacies of the law, living with the belief that they belong to the state until they try to access some services.
She then urged the Liberian government to change a few words in the citizenship law, adding: “Over the past decade, legislative and policy changes have allowed more than four million stateless persons to acquire a nationality or have their nationality confirmed.
The UNHCR Deputy Country Representative made reference to a 2008 High Court ruling in Bangladesh which allowed 300,000 stateless Urdu speakers to become citizens, thus ending generations of hopelessness. She recalled that in Ivory Coast, legal reforms in 2013 now allow long-term residents in the country to acquire a nationality.
“Liberia is one step from making these changes materialize, and we salute the government's efforts in paving the way to end and prevent statelessness in the country,” Kimyaci maintained.
She revealed the launch of a special report which draws on individual testimonies collected during consultations in seven countries to show the world how statelessness can significantly impair the ability of children to learn, grow, play and lead productive and fulfilling lives, and how it leaves psychological scars that are very difficult to erase.
In Liberia, Kimyaci disclosed that left an estimated of 4,000 children inside the country and nearly 3,200 children outside the country potentially stateless.
“Liberia has a stateless population in large part due to the high numbers of women who fled the country during the civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and gave birth to children, during their time in exile, with foreigners,” she indicated.
Meanwhile, Kimyaci said the UNHCR and the Liberian government, through the Liberia Refugee, Resettlement & Reintegration Commission (LRRR) and other stakeholders, are working to end and preventing statelessness.
Also speaking, LRRRC Deputy Executive Director, Kojoe N. Ross, indicated the Liberia is committed to human rights, fundamental and human dignity; reason he said the country is signatory to both the statelessness Conventions, adding that many efforts have been made in the prevention of statelessness and the provision of assistance of stateless in Liberia.
Ross expressed the hope that the government of Liberia will endorse a research done on the issue in Liberia through a national validation process; make operational the present Draft National Statelessness Action Plan through cabinet endorsement.
He the realization will be on the Justice Ministry that continues to engage the Legislature on the passage into law and working with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) to ensure the amendment to laws which could render hundreds of people stateless if not resolved.
For her part, BIN Deputy Commissioner, Assatu Kanneh, noted the law reform component of the Commission is working on these issues and presently has a validation of citizenship ongoing in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking on naturalization, Commissioner Kanneh stressed that “if you are born in Liberia you can obtain a birth certificate; but that does not make you citizen if your parent came from somewhere else. To become citizen you have to pass through some procedures”.