The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has asked the Federal Government to adopt the national action plan to end statelessness in the country.
This was even as the UNHCR urges states to end the limbo for stateless people by 2024.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, made the call in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign aimed at ending statelessness by 2024.
Grandi said COVID-19 is worsening the plight of millions of stateless people worldwide, calling on world leaders to include and protect stateless populations and make bold and swift moves to eradicate statelessness.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more than ever the need for inclusion and the urgency to resolve statelessness. A pandemic doesn’t discriminate between citizens and non-citizens. It is not in any state’s, society’s or community’s interest for people to be left stateless and living on the margins of society.
“We must redouble efforts to resolve this affront to humanity in the 21st century,” Grandi said.
The UNHCR further said that lacking important legal rights and often unable to access essential services, many stateless people were politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
UNHCR also said in many countries, stateless people, including stateless refugees, live in sub-standard and inadequate sanitary conditions which can increase the risk of disease.
“The risk of statelessness is very real in Nigeria and in the aftermath of the COVID19, more than ever; there is a need for action to ensure that those unable to prove entitlement to citizenship, and thus placed at risk of statelessness, are not excluded from access to basic services like health, education, and protection through the actions set out in the draft National Plan of Action.
“Though global data is hard to obtain as stateless populations are not always accounted for or included in national censuses, some 4.2 million stateless people are reported by UNHCR in 76 countries. The actual number is believed, however, to be substantially higher.
“Some governments have made birth registration and other forms of civil documentation an essential service, maintaining operations despite the pandemic, helping to prevent new cases of statelessness arising. In Nigeria, 295,370 internally displaced people in the North East were supported to access birth registration, indigene certificates and the national identity enrolment through the UNHCR Access to Justice project between 2018 and June 2020.
“To protect and save lives, we urge governments to resolve statelessness and make sure that no one is left behind,” Grandi also said.
On her part, UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, encouraged the Federal Government to urgently adopt the National Action Plan to End Statelessness.
“This plan will give Nigeria the framework for the identification, prevention and eradication of statelessness” Kapaya said.