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Ten Million People Are Stateless: UN Reveals The Forgotten Lives Of Those With No Nationality

04/11/2014 16:37 GMT | Updated 04/11/2014 17:59 GMT

At least ten million people worldwide are currently stateless, and a baby is born with no nationality every ten minutes, according to a UN report which reveals the staggering number of people who are not citizens of any country.

Millions of stateless people are not allowed a nationality and have no identity paperwork, often as a result of discrimination.

Unable to register as a person any country, they are often denied basic rights and services like health, education and a legal job.

malak

4-year-old Malak's family fled from Iraq to Iran in 1980 after Saddam Hussein stripped their entire Faili Kurd community of their citizenship

Stateless people now major crisis, and live in "a devastating legal limbo" without human rights protection, the UN's refugee agency UNHCR claims.

Most stateless people have suffered discrimination based on ethnicity, religion or gender. Many are refugees, and the UN warns that the growing number of major conflicts such as in Syria, have displaced millions of people.

More than 50,000 children have been born to Syrian refugee parents in Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Egypt since the start of the conflict in 2011. Over a third of the world’s stateless are children.

Leal, a Lebanese woman, has no identity papers, because her grandfather did not register the birth of her father, who then in turn could not register her birth. As she is stateless, Leal cannot work legally, register the existence of her own children or her marriage, or even use services like hospitals. She is unwell and desperately needs a kidney operation.

"To be stateless is like you don't exist," says Leal. "You live in a parallel world with no proof of your identity."

Actress Angelina Jolie, a UNHCR special envoy, and Desmond Tutu, have joined more than 20 celebrities in signing an open letter, saying "now it's time to end statelessness itself", 60 years after the United Nations first agreed to protect stateless people.

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There are currently 27 countries that deny women the right to pass their nationality onto their children on an equal basis as men, a restriction which can continue statelessness down generations as women are unable to give their children a nationality.

UNHCR has launched its global "I Belong" campaign, and aims to wipe out statelessness within 10 years.

The open letter said: "Statelessness can mean a life without education, without medical care or legal employment… a life without the ability to move freely, without prospects or hope," the letter said. "Statelessness is inhuman. We believe it is time to end this injustice."

Angelina Jolie said: "Being stateless means you and your children having no legal identity, no passport, no vote, and few or no opportunities to get an education. Ending statelessness would right these terrible wrongs. But it would also strengthen society in countries where stateless people are found, by making it possible to draw on their energy and talents."

Attitudes around statelessness have evolved over the last few years: in 2011 only around 100 states had singed up to the UN's two statelessness treaties, but now the number is 144.

The online petition, aiming to collect ten million signatures in support of ending statelessness within ten years.

10 million stateless people in the world