Stateless Populations around the World

According to UN statistics there are about 10 million stateless people worldwide, but the real number may be higher. There are many situations that leave people stateless. Here are the most common:

  • Wars and conflicts (Iraq, Syria)

  • Racism, nationalism, political discrimination against minorities, religious persecution (Dominican Republic, Estonia, Myanmar, Latvia, Kuwaiti Bidoon, Roma in Europe)

  • State collapse or succession (Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Palestine)

  • Gender discrimination (Bahamas, Lebanon, Barbados)
    Or any combination of these factors

If you belong to a group that is commonly stateless, you may also be stateless. Some commonly stateless groups include:

Roma

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Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali groups in Europe are ethnic and cultural minorities in Europe historically associated with nomadism. Roma groups have been persecuted throughout European history and many are stateless.

Rohingya

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The Rohingya are an ethnic and religious minority in Burma/Myanmar who do not qualify for citizenship under the law. Long persecuted, the Rohingya are now undergoing a genocide.

Palestinians

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Palestinians are an ethnic and religious group from the Middle East. They became stateless during the process of creating the state of Israel. There are many Palestinians living in the US. For information on some of the legal problems faced by Palestinians in the U.S., see here.

Dominicans of Haitian Descent

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The government of the Dominican Republican recently denaturalized Dominicans of Haitian descent, those with Dominican citizenship whose families were originally from Haiti, meaning that many Dominicans in the U.S. may now be stateless. Read more here.

Hmong

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people from Laos may also be stateless. You can read more here.

Former Soviet Block Countries and Yugoslavia

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People from former Soviet Union countries like Estonia and Latvia, as well as the former Yugoslavia, like Bosnia, frequently lack citizenship because of discrimination and gaps during the succession or breakup of states. You can read more here.

South Sudan and Eritrea

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Likewise, the creation of South Sudan and Eritrea has created cases of statelessness. Find out more here and here.

Countries from the British Empire

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Immigrant populations during the British Empire period — people whose families migrated or were relocated during the British Empire period are often stateless, such as in countries like Malaysia and Kenya. Some countries, like Sri Lanka, have worked to resolve their cases.

Indigenous People around the World

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Indigenous, nomadic and mobile peoples all over the world are at high risk of statelessness. For an example in the Central American context, see here.

Refugees

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Finally, a large number of refugees and displaced persons may be at risk of statelessness or become stateless due to problems with registration and documents. Examples including Syrian refugees in Lebanon and refugees in Hong Kong.

Countries with Discriminatory Nationality Laws

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Discriminatory, gendered nationality laws can also create or contribute to statelessness. For an example from Nepal, see here.