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Refugee Legislation Will Benefit 4,000 Stateless People Living in U.S.
Washington, DC – June 8, 2010: Refugees International today urged policymakers to address legislative gaps that needlessly prevent an estimated 4,000 people living in the U.S. without a nationality from enjoying basic human rights.
Worldwide, there are more than 12 million men, women, and children who do not enjoy their right to a nationality. Statelessness individuals have no legal protection and no right to participate in political processes.
“Stateless people are truly the world’s most vulnerable,” stated Maureen Lynch, Refugees International Senior Advocate for Stateless Initiatives. “Their rights are basically non-existent – stateless people have limited access to health care and education; prospects for employment are poor, leading to generations of poverty; and their right to freedom of movement is routinely violated. Stateless people face social exclusion, harassment, and violence. They are, practically speaking, invisible.”
Statelessness results from factors such as political change, border demarcation or secession, forced expulsion, discrimination, nationality based solely on descent, and laws regulating marriage and birth registration. Since late 2004, Refugees International has conducted research on statelessness in more than 80 countries and undertaken over a dozen field visits to assess the situation of such groups.
“A number of countries have taken concrete steps to solve statelessness in recent years, proving that statelessness can be reduced, even ended,” stated Renata Rendón, Refugees International Congressional Advocate. “It is time for the U.S. to add its name to the growing list by passing the Refugee Protection Act of 2010.”
The legislation, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in March, includes a pathway for stateless persons in the United States to gain lawful status, allowing them to apply for legal permanent residency here and obtain the right to a nationality. Refugees International is calling on the House to introduce similar legislation.
In addition, in 2009 Congressman Berman supported legislation on statelessness in H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011. The purpose of the statelessness provision is to increase global stability and security for the U.S. and the international community by reducing the number of individuals who are stateless. Refugees International urges the House and Senate conferees to ensure that the final bill preserves the statelessness provision.
Maureen Lynch spoke at a Congressional briefing on the issue of statelessness with T. Alexander Aleinikoff, United National United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Howard Berman (D-CA), Chair of the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee and Esther Olavarria, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
ABOUT REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL
Established in 1979, Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advocates to end refugee crises around the world. Each year, Refugees International conducts field missions to identify displaced people’s needs for basic services such as food, water, healthcare, housing, access to education and protection from harm. Based on its field-based knowledge, RI successfully challenges policy makers and aid agencies to improve the lives of displaced persons. RI receives no government or UN funding, allowing their advocacy to be fearless and independent. www.refugeesinternational.org