Refugees in the Greek-Turkish borders

Photo: Stamatis Grozoudis/WCC

The statement calls on States, the UN, donors and others to learn lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritise stateless peoples rights and the right to nationality.

The undersigned 106 civil society actors are deeply concerned that many States and other key stakeholders have been unable or unwilling to learn from past mistakes and have failed to adequately prioritise and resource the practical steps that can and must be taken to protect stateless people and the right to nationality,” reads the statement. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have witnessed the cost of institutional and public ignorance and structural violence towards stateless people (and those at risk of statelessness) and remain deeply concerned about the lasting detrimental impact on an estimated 15 million stateless people worldwide, and tens of millions whose nationality is under threat.”

The statement notes that COVID-19 measures, including border closures and movement restrictions, discriminated against stateless people.

Access to healthcare remains a significant challenge, as stateless people are denied equal access to free or subsidised healthcare or health insurance in many countries, including the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Montenegro, Nepal, North Macedonia and South Africa,” reads the statement In Sweden, access to COVID-19 testing is contingent upon digital ID.”

Fear of arrest, detention and police brutality also undermine access, notes the statement.

The mental health impact on stateless people of dealing with COVID-19 and its consequences is also a matter of serious concern,” reads the text. “Ongoing delays and backlogs in civil registration and other vital procedures are also leaving stateless people in limbo and create new risks of statelessness.”

Stateless people face heightened risks of harassment, arrest and arbitrary detention, notes the statement. Stateless people in detention in several countries, including Australia, Malaysia and Thailand are at high risk of infection due to the inability to protect themselves through social distancing and preventative hygiene measures,” reads the text.

“Civil society responses have shown that the challenge of COVID-19 can be addressed through targeted, community-based action centred around stateless peoples leadership, participation and expertise.”