THE simplest definition of statelessness, academic or layperson, is not being a legal citizen of any country.

The world's most talked about stateless population were the semi-nomadic Roma community of Eastern Europe.

Over time, focus has shifted to the Rohingya of Myanmar. Much has been written and said about these desperate millions who have been denied the legal claim to citizenship in the land on which they were born and raised.

Despite this, the world is making absolutely no efforts to ensure that
they have claim to legal citizenship and sovereignty, either in Myanmar or anywhere else.

This is worrying not just because of the intensity of human rights abuses in this case, but because it is setting a dangerous precedent regarding countries making decisions about who belongs and who doesn't.

India's recent decision to strip almost two million people in the north-eastern state of Assam of their citizenship, and forcing them to 'prove' their identity is the most recent case. Without any current legal identity as a result of this, they now have nowhere to go, languishing in refugee camps.

Another case is Pakistan's decision in 2016 to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Afghans. Dubbed by Human Rights Watch as the ''world's largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times,'' most of those Afghans are not technically stateless, since they have been granted refugee status.

However, children of refugees born in Pakistan are still not immediately entitled to Pakistani citizenship [though legally, they are allowed to apply for it], and this remains a politically contested issue.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's promise to grant citizenship to Afghans born to refugees in Pakistan led to such an outcry that he has all but abandoned it. However, there is no grantee that they will be given Afghan citizenship either.

That would effectively render them stateless.

This is yet another example of how many countries prevent communities from belonging to the place they have always called home. Even if they were born there.

As much as the geopolitics of South and Southeast Asia plays into all these cases, particularly given the convoluted ties among regional countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the idea of rendering anyone 'stateless' is one that defies all norms and conventions in this day and age.

The 1954 United Nations conventions that relates to the status of stateless persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness are relevant to addressing statelessness.

Maintaining the right to a nationality, international rights agreements complement them.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research and thinking as ''Voice of the Voiceless'' on Stateless Students, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Themrise Khan.


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