The International Observatory on Statelessness

Introducing the Global Survey on Statelessness

compiled by Refugees International*

The following information provides a global survey of statelessness in over 80 countries, updated since the publication of RI’s 2005 report, Lives on Hold: The Human Cost of Statelessness.

RI defines statelessness to include people who are legally stateless and de facto stateless (lacking effective nationality due to obstacles proving or obtaining recognition of citizenship). Countries are organized by region, with major populations and developments highlighted. In 2005, our organization’s low-end estimate of stateless persons worldwide was 11 million. In 2009, we estimate that number to be no fewer than 12 million, consistent with UNHCR’s assessment. This increase does not necessarily suggest that the number of stateless persons worldwide has actually grown. Some situations of statelessness are in various stages of resolution, while new situations have since developed. Moreover, because of slightly more attention to the issue in recent years, identification practices and information-sharing have improved.

Obtaining exact or even approximate numbers for each country remains a major problem. Many stateless persons are not registered as stateless, or if they are, this information may be withheld due to political sensitivities. Refugees International has therefore looked to a range of sources to document and support the accuracy of the numbers and conditions of stateless persons reported. These sources include government and UN documents, media reports, non-governmental organizations, academic researchers, independent consultants, and interviews with stateless individuals or their associates. In some cases, imprecise information leads to wide number ranges and broad-brush descriptions. Errors or information gaps are regrettable, but underscore the need to strengthen identification processes and safeguard the rights of stateless persons therein. If a country is not listed, that does not necessarily mean that statelessness does not affect that country. It may mean that information on statelessness in that country is unavailable or beyond the capacity of RI to find. Cognizant of the dearth of precise information, RI has tended to use conservative estimates, and regularly updates its reports as new information emerges.

*See: Southwick, K. & Lynch, M. 2009. Nationality Rights for All: A Progress Report and Global Survey on Statelessness. Washington, D.C.: Refugees International.

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