October 10, 2020

Atlas of the Stateless


Facts and figures about exclusion and displacement

Videos, Articles, Video Statements, Graphics

The Atlas of the Stateless provides information on the situation of stateless people worldwide in 53 graphics and 6 thematic articles as well as 19 country examples. You can download, order a print version (free of charge) or read online now!

Download the PDF or order your free print copy here:

The Atlas of the Stateless at a glance:

Interview with Eva Wuchold, Director of the Social Rights Programme of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, in the November 2020 monthly newsletter of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion.

Think Tank Hub Geneva podcast Stateless: denied nationality with Eva Wuchold in November 2021.

Articles: Contributions from the Atlas of the Stateless

Rights: Citizens of nowhere

While most readers of this Atlas have the pieces of paper, booklets and plastic cards that permit them to get money from a cash machine, consult a doctor, travel, drive and vote, that is not the case for stateless persons and other marginalized groups.

By Kim Weidenberg

History: Weapons of mass discrimination

The emergence of nation-states in the nineteenth century led to the practice of denying citizenship to people living in those states. The First World War saw the start of actively depriving nationals of their citizenship. This was used both to punish individuals and to repress groups. The Nazis employed it as part of the Holocaust.

By Dietmar Bartz

Data availability: Known unknowns

“If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” Stateless people often do not appear in official data. The state may be aware of their existence, but does not know how many there are, where they are, or what they need. They are invisible, and thus are easily overlooked or deliberately ignored. Lebanon is a prime example of this problem.

By Samira Trad

Health: Treating symptoms, not the cause

Health and human rights are inextricably intertwined. Without the right papers, people may be denied government health services. They may be forced to pay for more expensive private doctors and clinics, or have to do without healthcare altogether. As a result, they tend to be less healthy than the general population. That is bad for everyone: sick people are less productive, and society has to pick up the bill.

By Proloy Barua

Malaysia: The indignity of the indigenous

The Malaysian term bumiputera, or “son of the soil” refers to people whose ancestors are native to Malaysia. But a large number of bumiputera – especially non-Malay indigenous people – are in fact stateless, because the state fails to recognize their marriage and other customs.

By Linda Lumayag

Rohingya: Rejected and disowned

Violences, discriminations, contrôles arbitraires… l’histoire des Rohingyas est toujours inscrite dans l’actualité mortifère de l’humanité. Même si certaines instances juridiques mondiales ont été saisies, il y a urgence à s’emparer de ce dossier complexe.

By Katherine Southwick

Assam: Along the Brahmaputra

Anti-Muslim politicians in the northeast Indian state of Assam wanted to use a new register of citizens to trigger the mass deportation of Muslims to neighbouring Bangladesh. But most of the people affected turned out to be Hindus.

By Subir Bhaumik

Iraq: Many groups and many causes

In Iraq, people have been left stateless because of successive waves of conflicts and injustices. Some groups have suffered a long history of discrimination; others have been rendered stateless by more recent events. Laws that discriminate against women are a special problem – but would be easy to fix.

By Zahra Albarazi

Kuwait: Just wanting to belong

The drawing of boundaries early in the last century left bitter legacies. Thousands of people who were born in Kuwait and have lived there all their lives cannot claim Kuwaiti nationality. They are deprived of basic rights – to vote, enrol in a public school, or travel. And they are fated to pass on their statelessness to their children and children’s children.

By Christian Jakob

Syria: Lacking citizenship and seeking protection

Stateless people can be especially vulnerable when they find themselves in an armed conflict, because they are suspected and persecuted from all sides. Conflict-induced displacement creates yet more risks of statelessness. But paradoxically, a conflict may also reduce the number of stateless people as governments try to appease certain groups.

By Thomas McGee

Palestinians: A land without promise

One sequence of historical wrongs – antisemitism in Europe, culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust – led to the creation of Israel. But that gave birth to another set of wrongs: the displacement of Palestinians from their homes and their homeland. The Palestinian diaspora still has no hope of return, and many are still not accepted in the places where they live.

By Jaber Suleiman

Lebanon: Gender discrimination down the generations

Laws in many countries discriminate against women in numerous ways: in health, education, marriage, employment, parenthood, inheritance and property rights. Citizenship is no exception: women often cannot pass on their citizenship to their children. The situation is particularly acute in Lebanon, where the Nationality Law of 1925 condemns many people to statelessness today. It would be easy to solve such problems, but the country’s delicate religious and political balance prevents this.

By Samira Trad

Madagascar: Indian ocean, but not Indian

The end of colonialism led to the independence of many countries and a new nationality for many of their inhabitants. But not all. Some people were left stranded: immigrants in the newly independent countries had no state that would accept them. That is the case of the Karana, a minority group in Madagascar.

By Olivia Rajerison

Uganda: None of the above

Having a proof of identity is useful for many reasons: to access services, to enable people to exercise their rights, and to prevent fraud. But even the best-designed identity systems may have gaps – through which people who do not fit the criteria may fall. And once they have fallen through the gap, it is difficult to climb back up.

By Johanna Katharina Seidl

West African Nomads: Moving with the herds

The concept of the modern state, and the rules of nationality, are based on the idea of residency within fixed boundaries. But millions of people, especially in the drier areas of Africa and Asia, move with their herds from place to place in search of water and pasture. Their lifestyle is far older than the boundaries that cut across their traditional grazing grounds.

By Bronwen Manby

Côte d’Ivoire: For coffee and cocoa

Statelessness in Côte d’Ivoire is the result of immigration by large numbers of workers during and since the colonial era. The country’s citizenship law is restrictive and arbitrarily enforced, but the government has said it will resolve the problem of statelessness by 2024.

By Nicola Liebert

South Africa: Birth but no birthrigh

South Africa has one of the most enlightened and liberal constitutions in the world. But even here, thousands of people fall into, or are born into, the limbo of statelessness. Loopholes in laws leave gaps – gaps that large numbers of people can fall through. Children are especially at risk.

By Sindisiwe Moyo

Dominican Republic: Changing the rules

The rise of nationalism and xenophobia in some countries is leading governments to consider changes to the rules governing citizenship there. That causes problems for migrants and their descendants. A constitutional change in the Dominican Republic revoked the citizenship of hundreds of thousands people of Haitian origin. Local and international pressure has restored those rights for only half of them.

By Hans-Ulrich Dillmann

USA: Fifty states, but no room for the stateless

“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” says a plaque on the Statue of Liberty in New York. Since its founding, the United States has welcomed immigrants and has granted them citizenship. Their children born on American soil automatically become US nationals. The current US administration is trying to overturn this proud tradition.

By David C. Baluarte

Islands: When home disappears beneath the waves

As sea levels rise and deserts spread, more and more people are being displaced. Refugees dislodged by climate change risk becoming stateless. Legal frameworks for states with no habitable land must be in place ahead of time.

By Graham Pote

Roma: No papers, no rights

Most people live in one place: they have a house or a flat, perhaps even a garden. Groups with a mobile lifestyle do not fit in, and thus are viewed with suspicion and hostility. That is true of the Roma in Europe, even though many have been settled for generations. The possession or acquisition of documents proving citizenship is a major problem.

By Vladan Jeremić

Baltics: Breaking up after a forced marriage

The three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were independent between the two world wars but were absorbed by the Soviet Union in 1940. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they sought to rebuild their nation-states and identities. This explains the differences in their citizenship strategies.

By Aleksandra Kuczyńska-Zonik

Europe: Not yet a model for the world

The Old Continent – and the European Union in particular – likes to see itself as a model of democracy and human rights. But it is home to a surprising number of stateless people – some from Europe itself, as well as more recent arrivals. The countries of Europe must do more to solve this solvable issue.

By Chris Nash

Conventions: Of states and statelessness

States grant their nationality to individuals, but they follow different sets of rules, and sometimes apply those rules in ways that lead to statelessness. International law has tried to plug the gaps, but less than half the world’s countries have signed up.

By Matthias Reuß

The IBelong Campaign: Putting statelessness on the front burner

Statelessness is all too often invisible. Not recognised as nationals of any country, stateless people are often deprived of basic rights. The IBelong campaign, led by UNHCR, is trying to change this by raising awareness about the issue and pushing for change — with some initial successes.

By Melanie Khanna

Authors statements

Matthias Reuß
Kim Weidenberg
Vladan Jeremić
Aleksandra Kuczyńska-Zonik
David C. Baluarte
Jaber Suleiman
Subir Bhaumik
Olivia Rajerison
Proloy Barua

Graphics: All info graphics from the Atlas of the Stateless

The good news: over 750,000 people acquired citizenship in the last ten years. The bad news: more than four million people are still waiting

The UN Refugee Agency suspects that many more people around the world are stateless

The fates of individual prominent people reflect the types of exclusion, repression and harrassment that mar the lives of millions of others

Many governments seem to think that if they do not submit reports to the UNHCR, the problem of statelessness will simply disappear

Granting Palestinians citizenship would make 10 percent more Sunnis eligible to vote – upsetting an already fragile balance of religious power

Even if they try to collect and report accurate numbers, official agencies face formidable social, political, legal and technical barriers

Thailand is trying to improve the health situation for refugees and stateless people, but many problems remain

Along with the poor and migrants, stateless persons are particularly hard-hit by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic

DHRRA, a regional legal-aid initiative, has already helped thousands of people through the three-year naturalization process

No documents, no citizenship: a fatal rule, especially for members of groups without a tradition of writing

For decades, Myanmar’s military and the parties they control have practised oppression and disenfranchizement – and have even gone as far as genocide

In 2017/18, over 740,000 people fl ed to Bangladesh, joining 200,000 other victims of previous displacements

In northeastern India, many of the constant confl icts over citizenship and migration are rooted in borders drawn along religious lines by the British colonial administration

Once they came from Bengal to grow tea and rice. Nationalist groups in Assam now want as many of their descendants as possible to leave

After 14 years, tribunals had dealt with just one-third of the cases. Result: 93.5 percent of the people processed should have been eligible to vote

Their parents dead, imprisoned or stigmatized – years after the demise of the “Islamic State”, many children are still not safe

How many people are stateless, have lost their citizenship or regained it, especially in the border regions of Iraq? No one knows

Official Kuwaiti statistics do not give the numbers of stateless Bidoon because they are considered tolerated illegal residents

The Kuwaiti authorities operate in an opaque manner, leaving the people affected in the dark

A lack of openness in the Gulf monarchies means that little is known about the location of many Bidoon

The Dom live in several countries in the Middle East. They are mainly known as informal dental technicians

Syria: Not covered are stateless children who were conceived from rapes and marriages with now-dead adherents of the Islamic State

The war of 1948 forced over 700,000 Palestinians to flee. Many became stateless. Seventy years later, they and their descendants are still stateless

Millions of Palestinians are stateless. Some host countries, such as Lebanon, do not want the option of naturalization

The problems are growing: some 60,000 Lebanese are reported to be stateless, half of them under 18 years of age

While the wealthy Karana took care of their nationality status, many of the poor did not manage to be naturalized by colonial France

Violence and abductions hamper efforts to find a solution for a relatively small group of stateless persons

The Malagasy state is not in a position to guarantee basic services for large sections of the population

Only members of the 65 indigenous communities that lived in the country before 1926 are considered Ugandans. Over 30,000 people are still excluded

In 2014, Uganda had a population of 34.6 million. They are strikingly diverse in language, ethnicity and religion

The many national borders in the Sahel hardly match the nomadic economy, and make it easier for governments to keep itinerant herders out

While Côte d’Ivoire supplies 40 percent of the world’s cocoa beans, the country makes only 5 to 7 percent of global profits from them

Reliable data is vital for policymaking, but official statistics in Côte d’Ivoire differ widely from estimates by outsiders

Every child has a different story: orphaned, left by their parents, abandoned in extreme poverty, taken in after abuse, or fleeing from a war zone

Colonial heritage of Spain and France: Hispaniola has been centrally governed and split up several times. The Tensions still remain

The Dominican Republic used to be an agricultural export powerhouse. Now it is the tourist industry that needs workers

Life is better in the east of the divided island. Here, 20 percent of the population is very poor; in Haiti the figure is 60 percent

More than 200,000 immigrants in the US may be affected by restrictions on citizenship

The Midwest rustbelt, along with California and Texas, is still a preferred destination for many immigrants. Many learn English quickly

New methods are enabling more accurate predictions about the rise in sea level by 2100 – and the forecasts are increasingly alarming

Melting glaciers and ocean warming, along with changing currents and stronger storms, are threatening island and coastal states

Since 1990, the effects of CO2 emissions for the oceans have been publicly known. It is easy to see who is responsible

For a long time now, the Roma have had a similar level of mobility as the cultures that surround them. The idea that they are wanderers is a persistent myth

Poverty and lack of documents form a vicious circle that can pass from one generation to the next

New jobs in factories and government, plus the influx of military personnel, quickly changed the ethnic composition of the Baltic states

Many non-naturalized Russians opposed the independence of the Baltic states. But they are getting older and are dying

A wide range in Europe: from hundreds of thousands of stateless people, to just a few. But no one knows how many cases are hidden

Attempts at a uniform policy on statelessness in Europe, and even in the European Union, have so far failed

Some 45 states, most of them in Asia, have not yet signed any international treaties for the protection of stateless persons

For 50 years the emphasis has not been on making new treaties to protect human rights, but on making sure they apply everywhere

The Convention prohibits expatriation on political, racial, ethnic and religious grounds – or because of a change of territory

Women in 25 countries around the world are still prevented from passing on their citizenship to their children

All info graphics for download

This contribution is licensed under the following copyright licence: CC-BY 4.0

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