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Topic 1: Ending Statelessness

Topic 2: Protecting the Right to Family Reunification

 

Under-Secretary General: Selja Keränen

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Countries: Russian Federation, Bangladesh, China, Estonia, Albania, Germany, France, Greece, Denmark, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Brazil, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Chile, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Israel

Topic 1: Ending Statelessness

A stateless person is someone who is not considered as a national by any country under the operation of its law. According to the UNHCR, it is estimated that at least 10 million people worldwide are stateless and continue to suffer the consequences of being denied a nationality or citizenship.

 

Statelessness can be caused by different reasons such as discrimination in nationality laws relating to for example gender, religion or race but it can also occur due to the emergence of new States, State succession, and conflict in nationality laws.

 

Being stateless often means not having the right to go to school, see a doctor, get a job, buy a house or even get married. In at least 20 countries, stateless children cannot even get legally vaccinated. Stateless people are found in all areas of the world and in the majority of cases, stateless people were born in countries where they have lived their entire lives.

 

The UN General Assembly mandated the UNHCR to identify and protect stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness. In November 2014, UNHCR launched the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024. To achieve this goal, UNHCR encourages countries to take action in accordance with the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness.

 

What are the countries doing so far to end statelessness within their own territories and what else can be done to further protect the rights of stateless people and improve their current situation?

Topic 2: Protecting the Right to Family Reunification

A family is a fundamental unit of society entitled to protection by society and by the State. Once refugees are in safety, they are often unaware of the whereabouts of their family. Separation of family members can result in devastating consequences to people's´ well-being and ability to rebuild their lives.

 

UNHCR recognizes the special significance of family reunification due to the fact that refugees and other persons in need of international protection are unable to return to their country of origin. UNHCR, therefore, emphasizes that family reunification is an important element for the integration of those who are beneficiaries of international protection living in their country of asylum and is an essential aspect in bringing normality back into the lives of those who have fled from persecution.

 

The Final Act of the United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons recommends that Member States take the necessary measures to ensure that the unity is maintained particularly in circumstances where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country.

 

However, there are currently a number of legal and practical obstacles when it comes to family reunification. Regarding legal obstacles, some countries have for example suspended the right to family reunification in their national laws concerning persons who only have obtained a subsidiary protection status and not a refugee status, despite both being recognised as beneficiaries of international protection.

 

Other challenges include strict material requirements concerning income, integration, housing and a narrow definition of what constitutes a family. Among the practical obstacles the family members also face are accessing the embassies abroad, lack of timely information, difficulties obtaining travel documents, administrative delays and paying application fees.  

 

In regards to these legal and practical obstacles, what actions can be taken in order to strengthen and protect the essential right to family reunification?