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UN, ECOWAS alert on one million stateless persons in Nigeria, others

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REUTERS/George Esiri GE/FMS

The United Nations (UN) and Economic Community of West Africa, States (ECOWAS) has urged government of member countries, civil societies and other regional partners to join in the campaign against statelessness in the region.

This followed disclosure that the region has an estimated 1million persons without nationality in Nigeria and other West African countries.

Statelessness they argued mean a life without education, without medical care or legal employment, a life without the ability to move freely, without prospects or hope, as they are often denied the rights and services that countries normally offer their citizens.

To check statelessness in the country, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) harped on the need to systematically develop a databank to generate data on the cause of statelessness, persons at risk of statelessness and develop strategies to reduce the menace.

Deputy Representative of UNHCR to Nigeria, Roger Hoilo at an interactive session with ECOWAS Permanent Representatives Committee on Statelessness organised by UNHCR yesterday in Abuja, disclosed that there were over 10 million stateless persons around the world and that thousands of them reside in the West African region, while several others are still at high risk of becoming stateless.

To curtail the menace, he said UNHCR had launched the global “I Belong Campaign” to end statelessness in the West African sub-region by 2024, insisting that advocacy, sensitisation, stakeholders’ engagement are clear strategies to eradicate statelessness.

Chair of ECOWAS Ambassadors, Alan Mogaskia, pointed out that the major cause of statelessness in West Africa remains conflicts based on ethnic tensions, rivalries, political instability, poverty and underdevelopment.

He stressed the urgent need for stakeholders, especially ECOWAS ambassadors to create a conducive political environment that would promote the ratification, domestication and implementation of relevant protection laws among member states.

Mogaskia, who is also ECOWAS Permanent Representative to Niger Republic, noted that although the 2016 Abidjan Declaration by ECOWAS Ministers on the reduction of statelessness in the region and the Banjul Plan of Action of 2017 indicate that the region was making progress in tackling the problem, there was the need to understand statelessness, the causes and protection challenges, to be able to contribute significantly to its eradication in the region.


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