As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, countries have implemented quarantines, physical distance measures and other preventive action to protect their citizens from the disease. However, there are millions of stateless people who remain at risk and are not guaranteed the same healthcare protection simply because they are not recognized as a citizen or a national under the laws of any country.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been working with governments to include stateless populations in their national coronavirus responses. There are no benefits to exclusion and countries cannot guarantee the security and health of their citizens unless everyone, regardless of their legal status, is included in national responses.
Stateless people often live in precarious conditions on the fringes of society, making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. During the pandemic, many stateless people are restricted from accessing coronavirus testing and treatment. Others have refrained from accessing services for fear of deportation. Stateless people have also faced increased movement restrictions, widespread loss of livelihoods, discrimination and decreasing number of birth registrations - all of which have exacerbated their pre-pandemic vulnerabilities.
Stateless women and girls are at most risk. Confinement and reduced community interaction have exposed them to domestic violence and abuse and many have been forced into early child marriages as a result of COVID-19’s economic impact.
Statelessness can be solved if everyone - countries, international organizations and civil society - work together to address the issue. On November 2014, UNHCR launched the Global #Ibelong Campaign to End Statelessness, which outlined ten key actions required to end stateless in less than ten years.
How you can help us end statelessness
The best way to support stateless people in the U.S. and worldwide during the pandemic is to become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor. Your compassionate gift today can help us end statelessness