[Asia] Five Large Nations With No Homeland

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28 Oct 2019

According to the UN, there are approximately 10–15 million stateless people in the world; officially, they do not belong to any country and are often discriminated against. As stateless people lack official papers like birth certificates, passports or ID cards, in many cases they cannot receive medical care, find jobs or attend school.

Many, but not all, stateless people are refugees, and not all refugees are stateless.

Children account for at least one-third of the stateless population.

Romas (or Romanis) in Europe can be stateless and therefore face several hardships. Many Roma lived in the former Yugoslavia and moved to the Balkans (Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, etc.) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They often lack identification papers, there is no official record of them, and hence, many cannot send their kids to school. In Italy, Romanis who lack Italian citizenship are ineligible for state health care and education, or for employment.

The Kurds are a stateless Muslim nation. There are about 20–40 million Kurds. They have their own language and customs, but not their own land—although they almost acquired one after the First World War. They have been denied citizenship by a number of countries. For instance, in the 1980s, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, revoked the citizenship of 300,000 Kurds. Likewise, 300,000 Kurds lost their citizenship in Syria in the 1960s, and fled the country. There are also many Kurdish refugees in Japan.

Rohingyas are Muslim refugees who speak their own language. They fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh due to persecution and violence. Their villages were burnt down and their lands confiscated. They lost citizenship in 1982, and have limited access to health care, education and jobs.

Palestinians are considered stateless people as they do not have their own country. Their constant fights with Israel have not brought about a territorial solution. Palestinians are still not registered, only by the UN, and many of them live in countries like Jordan, the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.

Hmong, Karen and Other Ethnic Minorities in Thailand live without papers or citizenship. Three of the famous twelve children who were stranded in a flooded cave in 2018 with their soccer coach are stateless, as is their coach.

Most of the people in the ‘Golden Triangle’— the jungle border with Myanmar and Laos—have no citizenship. Some fled from Myanmar to Thailand.

The Thai government is trying to find a solution to this issue, and provided citizenship to many refugees, mostly children, in 2017.

In 2019, one Kyrgyz lawyer, Azizbek Ashurov, claimed being stateless is unfair and unjust. He and his team fought for human rights, and in July 2019, Kyrgyzstan became the first country to end statelessness.

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