In order to be seen as a full participant in the global system, a person must usually first be recognised as a citizen of a state. In a world in which not every person is a citizen of a state, and in which states exclude people from full membership, this produces contradictions. For example, it means that when a person is locally excluded, this can in fact produce exclusion from recognition as a person in the international system as a whole. This chapter shows how this exclusion can lead to both invisibility and hypervisibility with respect to global governance projects. First, those excluded from citizenship can be rendered invisible in discussions about sustainable development. That is, rather than being merely ‘left behind’, they are in fact ‘left out’ entirely. Meanwhile, the same individuals can be made hypervisible when it comes to migration governance. Policies ostensibly directed at managing migration in fact target people insofar as they do not have the documentary proof that they are eligible for inclusion in a particular state. This means that the work to address the problems associated with statelessness cannot only fall with UNHCR, the agency with a mandate in this area. This work must be done in every area in which this deference to citizenship currently either leaves stateless people out of consideration or makes them targets. Crucially, this work will require the expert participation of people with direct experience of statelessness.
The context and focus of this chapter is the Indian sub-continent in the turmoil of the 1947 Partition and thus the comparative frameworks of according and denying citizenship that emerged at that time for migrant populations in Pakistan are explored. This chapter begins by reviewing the theoretical ground from which the category of the stateless individual emerges. The chapter outlines the shifting status of migrant populations throughout Pakistan’s post-colonial history; most notably the population of Afghan-origin persons residing in Pakistan over the last forty years. It does so by analysing the development of domestic legislation on identity and citizenship in Pakistan such as the Naturalization Act 1926, the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, and more specifically governance of Afghan refugees as ‘aliens’ under the Foreigners Act, 1946. With Pakistan as neither a party to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees nor to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the large influx of persons into Pakistan from neighbouring Afghanistan since the 1970s has been and continues to be governed through a complex array of policy measures. The chapter attempts to uncover how it is not only the lack of a formal legal conformity with international rights instruments that defines the ‘status’ of this population but also a history of geopolitics, the development of the nation-state, and the use of state apparatus (including courts) that has historically rendered certain populations effectively ‘stateless’.
In January 2019, the Kenyan government rolled out a new ‘National Integrated Identity Management System’ for registering all residents in the country. This is commonly referred to as the ‘huduma namba’. Under the terms of this programme, all individuals residing in the country are required to register their details on a central database. They would then be given a unique number. This chapter focuses on how members of the Shona community in Kenya who are at risk of statelessness engaged with the huduma namba and their experiences of doing this. The chapter finds that some such individuals believed that registering with the huduma namba would provide access to some form of documentation which would help them to access rights and perhaps eventually citizenship. Despite this hope, the research for this chapter found that the huduma namba programme was problematic at several levels. In the first place, persons at risk of statelessness encountered challenges in their attempts to register for a huduma namba. Further, using specific rights – namely, access to employment and the rights of persons with disabilities – as examples, the chapter demonstrates that, in the end, this project created problems, rather than providing solutions. To conclude, the chapter proposes specific measures, which the government can take, to meet challenges that registration processes such as these present. It provides lessons both for the Kenyan context in particular and for wider discussion about the use of documentation programmes to address the challenges associated with statelessness.
A stateless Shan youth’s journey to citizenship in northern Thailand
Janepicha Cheva- Isarakul
This chapter examines the journey of seeking legality and belonging of Muay (pseudonym), a 20-year-old stateless Shan youth who lives in northern Thailand. Muay dreams of becoming a nurse, but as a stateless person she is unable to take the licencing exam. Her desire to realise her professional dreams drove Muay finally to try to fix her citizenship status. Legally excluded from Thai citizenship, Muay sought the citizenship of Myanmar in order to be qualified as a migrant worker in Thailand, the country she calls home. This chapter follows Muay in her efforts to become a citizen of Myanmar and eventually a nurse in Thailand. Through Muay’s journey, it examines larger questions relating to the governance of Thai citizenship and the under-examined implications of documentary solution to statelessness. It interrogates, with Muay, the relationship between citizenship, nationality, documentation, and identity. Crucially, it also asks what belonging means in the age where it is made ‘real’ by documentation, and whether a stateless person like her can ever really call a place ‘home
‘Nomadic’ populations and the modern state in Thailand, Côte d’Ivoire, and Lebanon
People identified as members of ‘nomadic’ groups, irrespective of whether they in fact undertake a mobile lifestyle, are frequently cited among the groups that may be stateless or at risk of statelessness. The figure of the ‘nomad’ – which is typified by a mobile and self-reliant lifestyle (often across multiple borders), a lack of permanent residence, communal land use, and traditions of self-government – may seem challenging to the idea of the modern nation-state with its settled population, private land ownership, and centralised government structures within fixed boundaries. This chapter brings the findings of a research project conducted at the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness into conversation with the themes of the book. This project involved field research in three case studies – among marine Moken populations in Thailand and Myanmar, Fulbe pastoralists in Côte d’Ivoire, and Bedouin populations in Lebanon. The chapter examines how these nomadic or formerly mobile populations are considered in states’ governance and legal identity regimes. In particular, it provides a critical discussion of the practices relating to citizenship and legal identity that states employ and the difficulties they encounter in including populations with current or former mobile lifestyles. The chapter concludes with some observations about the importance of acknowledging and considering in policies and decision-making the agency and choices of these communities under rapidly changing ecological, economic, and socio-political conditions.
The ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ is a self-proclaimed state in the Donbas region of Ukraine. The struggle for an independent Republic of Donetsk has resulted in significant bloodshed, particularly from 2014. Survey data suggests that most of the residents of the region would like their region to become part of Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic relies heavily on Russian support. This chapter shows how governance decisions intended to achieve internal legitimacy in fact leave residents without a functional citizenship of either Ukraine or Russia. This means that they are effectively stateless, since citizenship of the Donetsk People’s Republic is not recognised beyond Donbas. The chapter traces what this means for individuals living in the region, and how it affects both their decision-making and their understanding of citizenship and identity. The case of the DPR highlights the powerful link between governance, statelessness, and citizenship. For established states, the inability to govern within a particular territory may contribute to statelessness. For self-proclaimed states, governance in pursuit of internal legitimacy may involve manipulation of citizenship policies, which enhances the risk of statelessness.
The legal prowess of the first-line bureaucrat in Malaysia
Jamie Chai Yun Liew
Decisions made by those frontline bureaucrats who process applications can have life-altering outcomes for the people who are affected. This chapter explores how the administrative work of government officials in Malaysia can affect individuals’ ability to access Malaysian citizenship. While the analysis is of very local contexts in Malaysia, its implications are much broader given many states around the world use a delegated system of administration to make decisions. Further, the principal way in which many people may interact with their governments is through administrative encounters with local officials. On the basis of interviews with people with a variety of perspectives on the work of Malaysian registration offices, this chapter illuminates the often-overlooked effects of encounters in administrative offices on stateless persons and on the governance of citizenship. It invites the reader to include the consideration of these low-level government officials in global thinking relating to statelessness. Of concern is not just the difficulties stateless persons have in understanding administrative processes and applications but the potentiality that individuals may be denied forms, information, and the opportunity to apply for citizenship, for no other reason than the discretion of the government employee. This chapter advocates for a wider lens when examining legal venues, legal accountability, and reform given the wide discretionary power exercised by frontline government officials to make decisions that effectively create and maintain statelessness.
Since the early 2000s, the government of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) first elevated and then eliminated statelessness as a policy issue through a series of unconventional population management policies. The centrepiece of this effort was the U.A.E.’s mass purchase of so-called ‘economic citizenship’ passports from the African country of Comoros for at least 50,000 stateless residents. In keeping with the official narrative about statelessness as a spurious status, the stateless were allowed to ‘reveal’ their ‘true’ nationality first. For those who failed to claim one, the U.A.E. assigned Comoros nationality. Through exhaustive interviews, application forms, compilations of documentary evidence, and DNA sample collections in the fall of 2008, the U.A.E. vetted the future ‘Comorians’. Were it not for its exclusionary outcomes, the process could be termed a statelessness determination procedure or even a mapping exercise. Having concluded that the registrants were indeed without access to documentary proof of citizenship, the U.A.E. provided this diverse grouping of residents with a form of citizenship documentation, a passport, issued by the Union of Comoros. Thus, through a transactional mass ‘naturalisation’ the U.A.E. convened a new Comorian ‘minority’. After presenting the historical and political context of how this happened, this chapter discusses the process as an example of governance of statelessness through ‘legal fiction’. While the U.A.E. created a mechanism for ‘eliminating’ statelessness, the lived experience of statelessness (or, the limbo of non-incorporation) in the U.A.E. remained intact. This experience reveals the pitfalls of any project to end statelessness merely nominally.
When a person is not recognised as a citizen anywhere, they are typically referred to as ‘stateless’. This can give rise to challenges both for individuals and for the institutions that try to govern them. Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship breaks from tradition by relocating the ‘problem’ to be addressed from one of statelessness to one of citizenship. It problematises the governance of citizenship – and the use of citizenship as a governance tool. It traces the ‘problem of citizenship’ from global and regional governance mechanisms to national and even individual levels. Part I examines how statelessness is produced and maintained, for example through global development efforts and refugee protection instruments. Part II traces the lived reality of statelessness, starting at conception and the issuance of birth certificates, then exploring the experiences of youth, workers, and older people. Part III demands a rethinking of the governance of citizenship. It interrogates existing efforts to address challenges associated with statelessness and suggests alternatives. Contributions span global regions and contributors include activists, affected persons, artists, lawyers, leading academics from a range of disciplines, and national and international policy experts. Written text, visual art, and poetry are also used to examine complex concepts central to this discussion. Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship rejects the idea that statelessness and stateless persons are a problem. It argues that the reality of statelessness helps to uncover a more fundamental challenge: the problem of citizenship.
The chapter questions a central policy norm that key international actors in the area developed to govern the relationship between statelessness and refugeeness. This policy position, which the author terms as the ‘protection hierarchy’, posits that for stateless refugees their refugee-ness should trump their statelessness. This justification is based on the claim that the protection concerns stemming from refugeeness are more immediate and pressing than those stemming from statelessness. This chapter consolidates the growing body of multidisciplinary research to question the justification of the protection hierarchy. Three main themes emerge from this systematic literature review: statelessness and recognition as a refugee; vulnerability, protection and refugee’s statelessness; and statelessness and ‘durable solutions’ for refugees. The chapter discusses how there is a solid empirical foundation which shows that the relationship between statelessness and refugee-ness is impactful, fluid and complex. As such, the claim that the consequences of statelessness can be distinguished, detached, and/or compared to refugeeness, the central premise of the protection hierarchy, is argued to be highly problematic. The chapter then turns to consider the recent tentative moves away from the protection hierarchy in the discourse of key international actors. It concludes by reflecting upon what the future holds for the governance of stateless refugees and the role that evidence-based policy can and must play.