Foreign Policy Blogs

Dateline, Dushanbe: Focus on 'stateless persons'

Soviet PassportThirty-three officials representing four Central Asian states, the European Union, and the UN High Commission on Refugees held a meeting called “Institutional and Capacity-Building Activities to strengthen the Asylum System in Central Asia”. 

A stateless person is any person living without state acknowledgement.  In underserved outlying areas, these may be children without birth certificates; a great many are refugees from other states and other conflicts.  The known number of stateless persons is 20,000, but it is believed there are many more.  Many were displaced and then not claimed as citizens after the fall of the Soviet Union, and still subsist with old Soviet passports.  Others are refugees from the Tajkistan Civil War of 1992-1997.  Without papers, one cannot access government services for education, health, or employment, nor legally travel. 

Afghan Refugee Camp, Tajikistan borderFor states, resolving the status of stateless persons involves investigation of areas where refugees or other stateless persons may live, and efforts at nationalization for adults, issuance of papers, and other assessments for health care.  The cost to local communities in increased school attendance and health care may increase, but issues of public health, security and crime prevention are better resolved when statelessness is minimized.  Both Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan naturalized refugees during the Tajikistan Civil War, but there remains a large outreach effort remaining to be accomplished.   

The Reuters article went on to say that a number of meetings, 80% funded by the EU, will continue until December, 2007, to help resolve this economic, security, and human rights issue.

UN News Service has a slightly different article, with quotes from attendees and links to international law documents;
Cathryn Cluver & Rich Basas feature a weekly roundup of migration issues on the FPA Migration blog: links at right.

Photo: Electronic Museum of Canada; BBC, 2001.