UN welcomes United Arab Emirates' plan to tackle plight of stateless people

23 September 2008

The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed a decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to resolve the situation of thousands of stateless people living there, and voiced the hope that the Persian Gulf nation’s efforts will encourage other countries in the region to do the same.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are thousands of stateless people living in different parts of the Middle East. When state boundaries were established and the Gulf States were formed, some countries used tribal affiliations rather than borders to determine citizenship.

As a result, thousands of people were left out and ended up without the nationality of any state. Without nationality, stateless people in are often unable to travel or gain access to the full range of public services, including education, that are available to citizens. Children of stateless people are also born stateless.

UNHCR is keen to see a positive outcome for this process,” the agency’s spokesperson, William Spindler, told reporters in Geneva.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Interior announced the launch of a two-month campaign for the registration of the country’s stateless population, who are referred to as the Bidoon.

It has also established four registration centres in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, where applicants fill out forms explaining why they should be granted UAE nationality. These centres will continue to accept applications for registration until the end of October.

“We are encouraged to see the high level of interest among the stateless population as shown by the number of application forms distributed in the first day of registration and the media awareness campaign carried by the government of the UAE to encourage registration,” said Mr. Spindler.

Two years ago, efforts by the Government to tackle the issue resulted in the naturalization of a first group of close to 1,300 people stateless people.

The agency has recommended additional steps to address statelessness and encourage a process that meets international standards.

“We hope that a successful resolution of this issue in the UAE will encourage other countries in the region to follow suit in addressing the problem of statelessness,” Mr. Spindler stated.

 

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