By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
As part of the global push to end the problem of statelessness especially in West Africa, the Government of Liberia through the Liberia Repatriation Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and the United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) are holding a two-day workshop to derive a national framework.
According to reports, an estimated 10 million people worldwide lack any nationality and the human rights protection that go with it and 750, 000 of that number of stateless people are in West Africa. The UNHCR is calling on governments to improve national laws that would prevent statelessness.
Opening the session yesterday in Monrovia, the UNHCR Representative, KhassimDiagne said the idea of people living without nationality needs to be addressed more in depth in the West African context and the deliberations ongoing in Monrovia is intended to feed into the regional framework.
Mr. Diagne said preparations are set to convene a regional ministerial conference on statelessness in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire at the close of this month which will be the first of its kind in West Africa to provide a timely opportunity and a solid platform for the promotion of developmental strategies in the region.
He said the conference will also address the identification and protection of stateless persons as well as the prevention and reduction of statelessness, exploring the steps required to end such condition in the region and that is why the current ongoing dialogue is necessary so that it too will develop from the workshop its own national action plan as called for by the global campaign.
The UNHCR Representative praised the Liberian Government for taking the lead in what he termed an important protection activity as he recalled how lots have been done by government in terms of collecting data, analyzing the problem of statelessness in Liberia and reviewing facts that expose and make individuals stateless.
He further reminded the workshop about the strides already made by Liberia into the action plan evidenced by the comprehensive study made on the subject and that the report is available thereby pledging his organization’s full support in assisting government’s review the extent of the problem in Liberia and map out a strategy that would lead to a national action plan.
The LRRC’s Executive Director, Abla Williams thanked the international partners as well as the non-traditional partners on behalf of government and said that the Liberia Identity Registry was set up in 2012 and began full swing in 2013.
She explained that everyone has the right to a nationality which is a legal bound between persons and State that should be considered as a right based issue by all countries and stakeholders. She said the whole idea is concentrated around eight cardinal issues so that by 2017, the government could have met its target in terms of curtailing statelessness that would set a legacy for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s exit.
Already, 40 persons are attending the workshop to discuss the problem that is holding hostage the rights of people to a nationality whereas the international legal basis for ending statelessness was provided by the 1954 UN Convention and the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness; both conventions which Liberia is a signatory.