Academics, Our World UN


Tendayi Bloom United Nations University (2014.11.04)

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), each individual has a right to a nationality:

Everyone has the right to a nationality.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

But for now, lots of people still are deprived from that right. What is it so important? Because nationality (which is generally linked to a form of citizenship) comes with rights (health, education, etc.) that are essential. There was a really interesting Japanese drama about this problem, showing that statelessness is actually a problem that concerns more than Rwanda refugees and ex-USSR countries. As a European citizen possessing the French nationality, I have access to a impressive amount of services. With a small European insurance card, I can get treated in a German hospital and not care too much about my French health insurance taking care of the bill. I have a right to vote, a right to state aids when I am in need, a right to primary education (and almost free higher education), a right to security… Of course, I also have responsibilities and duties towards the country that protects me (votin, paying taxes, etc.). This looks pretty normal.

But what would happen if I did not have that nationality? My mother cannot vote, even though she has been living in France for more than half of her life. She has the advantage of coming from a developed country fancied by many and is part of a socioprofessional group ++, which means less discrimination, but she still has to go through a long process every 10 years to get the permission to live on the French territory. But then, how would she do that without a primary nationality (here symbolized by her passport), proving that she has a legal existence?

After all, having a nationality or not is about this: existing. Of course, the question of rights is important, but it comes after the fact that one is not even considered as being. As I went through the process of giving up one of my nationality, I know that my existence itself as a Japanese citizen has been erased. All is left is a small square under my mother’s name, saying that I am her oldest daughter (funny, since she only has one). I lost my Japanese family name and keep a passport marked VOID as a souvenir.

I actually have trouble figuring how it is possible to live as a stateless person. I know so little about it. It just seems wrong. And I thought that it was somehow illegal to be in such a situation and that states had a duty to give stateless people a nationality. Fantasy. Every country has a right to set the rules to give access to its citizenship. That is why Japan could decide to allow double citizenship with France but not with China (random example, of course). So every country has a right to refuse its citizenship to people asking for it. The end of statelessness by 2024? What a joke! But I still believe that educating people about the existence of statelessness and its consequences is vital, in order to have more people talking about it. Because an unknown issue won’t be discussed. Countries are too busy chasing after the ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, whatever) or looking for shale gas.

See also: I Belong To A World That Vows To End Statelessness, Carol Smith.


Listening to: 방탄소년단 (BTS) – Danger (Mo-Blue-Mix) (Feat. Thanh)


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