Stateless: Belonging to No One

Many of the children we rescue at Life Impact Thailand are stateless, and because of it, their futures are bleak and opportunities are extremely limited. Fortunately, because of our partnership with the Kingdom of Thailand, we are able to help them become citizens of Thailand. However, for the 10 million stateless people in the world, citizenship is just a dream.

A stateless person is someone who is not a citizen of any country. They have no legal documents that guarantee them the right of government protection and no country claims them as their own. Many stateless people end up as refugees, but not all stateless people are refugees. Some live in the country in which they were born, yet that country, for whatever reason, does not claim them and does not offer them any rights or privileges.  

Refugee camp for Burmese refugees in Thailand

The opportunities available to a stateless person are extremely limited. They cannot vote or participate in government in any way. They often lack access to education, health care, employment, property rights or even the right to legally marry. These people pass their statelessness on to their children as they are often unable to receive birth certificates for their babies. Since they have no legal right to be in the country in which they were born, they are vulnerable to forced displacement, and in these cases, they become refugees. This lack of opportunities and protection cause them to be very vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation.

School in refugee camp

People become stateless when countries pass discriminatory laws that prohibit people of certain ethnicity or religion from gaining citizenship. Some Middle Eastern nations even refuse full citizenship to women. These countries intentionally design laws that keep certain groups of people from enjoying the same privileges as other groups. Legal documents can be erased or confiscated from people the government wants to intimidate or control and without any way to replace these documents, they are effectively rendered stateless.  An example of this is the 25,000 people in Slovenia who were simply erased from the national register because they did not meet the new conditions for citizenship after its independence from Yugoslavia.

Children living in a refugee camp

There are an estimated 10 million stateless people in the world

UN High Commissioner for Refugees 2019

At the end of 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that there were as many as 10 million stateless people in the world. Myanmar has one of the highest numbers of stateless people with over 1 million people who are undocumented. Many of the children Life Impact works with on the Thai/Myanmar border are stateless. Because of this, they are at very high risk for exploitation and human trafficking.  Without citizenship in any country, these children will face a lifetime of obstacles and hardship.

When the government of Thailand approached Life Impact for help to deal with child exploitation on the Thai/Myanmar border, they asked Lana what she needed from the government as part of their partnership. She didn’t ask for money, or land or buildings, she asked that the children of Life Impact be granted citizenship in Thailand. Thailand agreed and suddenly a whole world of opportunities for these children opened up. 

One of our statelenss girls who was able to get a passport to go to America to study!

Join us in thanking God for the incredible favor our children have been granted in gaining their citizenship from Thailand.  Also, pray for the stateless people of the world who are extremely vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation.   

Resources

No country for Fifteen Million: The plight of the World’s Stateless. (n.d.). Retrieved March 05, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/blog/no-country-fifteen-million-plight-worlds-stateless

Statelessness in Myanmar: A Country Position Paper (Rep.). (2019, May).Stateless Journeys doi:https://statelessjourneys.org/wp-content/uploads/StatelessJourneys-Myanmar-final.pdf

Statelessness – United States Department of state. (2020, December 01). Retrieved March 05, 2021, from https://www.state.gov/other-policy-issues/statelessness/#:~:text=What%20Does%20It%20Mean%20To,an%20individual%20%E2%80%93%20in%20any%20country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (n.d.). Ending statelessness. Retrieved March 05, 2021, from https://www.unhcr.org/ending-statelessness.html

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