UN refugee agency commends Georgian step to protect stateless people

29 December 2011

The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed Georgia’s accession to a landmark global treaty that aims to protect the estimated 12 million people worldwide who are stateless – displaced persons with no citizenship status with any country.

After depositing the instruments of accession last week, Georgia becomes the 71st State Party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which establishes minimum standards of treatment for stateless persons.

The convention, one of two major international treaties on statelessness, will enter into force in Georgia in March next year.

The minimum standards in the pact include asking that State parties accord displaced people without a nationality the same rights as they do to foreigners. The international instrument was designed to avoid people being left in legal limbo.

According to a statement issued today by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Georgia is one of the first of the countries that committed earlier this month – at a global ministerial conference on the issue in Geneva – to ratify or accede to the convention to actually do so. Another 24 countries vowed to ratify or accede during that meeting.

Acceding to the convention allows Georgia to define statelessness under national law, to establish procedures for the determination of statelessness and to establish the responsibilities of stateless people in the country.

Simone Wolken, UNHCR’s representative in Georgia, called the accession “a milestone in the broader agenda of the country to demonstrate international best practices and to ensure the enjoyment of rights of all persons living in Georgia.”

About 1,600 stateless people were registered by national authorities in Georgia as of September. UNHCR states that about 4,000 others are at risk of becoming stateless.

The agency said it would continue to push for Georgia to accede to the other significant treaty on the issue, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said earlier this month at the ministerial conference that while States have the right to define their own immigration policies, they should do so in respect for human dignity and basic rights. Mr. Guterres asked countries to “assume our shared duty,” and “face the new challenges of forced displacement, find[ing] concrete and constructive ways to address them collectively.”


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