Myanmar: Act Immediately to Protect Displaced People's Rights
As Myanmar continues its renewed engagement with the international community, it must begin to address the serious violations of the rights of ethnic minorities that plague the country. It is time for the international community to change its ad hoc approach to Myanmar. Key donors and the United Nations must coordinate their advocacy and use consistent messaging to push the Myanmar government to address the root causes of the abuses suffered by ethnic minorities.
Myanmar: Protecting Minority Rights Is Non-Negotiable
In its rush to normalize relations with Myanmar, the international
community – particularly the United Nations – must not ignore the
increase in abuses being committed against ethnic minorities in Rakhine
and Kachin States, and it must take a stronger stance in defense of the
human rights of affected populations. Ten months after violence forced
them into displacement camps in central Rakhine State, Rohingyas are
living in fear of multiple dangers: flooding and disease caused by the
rainy season, indefinite periods of displacement and segregation and the
consolidation of ethnic cleansing, arbitrary arrests, being forced by
officials to sign away their rights to citizenship, and a lack of
protection from further attacks. Meanwhile, in Kachin State, a peace
agreement remains out of reach almost two years after conflict there
resumed. Roughly 100,000 people are stuck in displacement camps, and
international humanitarian agencies are being denied access to the tens
of thousands living in non-government controlled areas.
Rohingya in Burma: Spotlight on Current Crisis Offers Opportunity for Progress
Despite an abundance of natural resources, Rakhine State is the second-poorest state in Burma. The simmering tension that exists between the Rakhine and stateless Rohingya communities has been stoked by poverty for decades. However, in June 2012 that tension boiled over. What began as inter-communal violence was followed by a wave of state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya, along with a refusal to allow humanitarian agencies access to the northern part of the state, where the majority of Rohingya live. In October, Rohingya and other Muslim communities were attacked again, resulting in the destruction of thousands of houses, the displacement of tens of thousands of people, and an unknown number of deaths. In the state capital, Sittwe, tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya are now living in segregated, squalid camps outside of town and cut off from their livelihoods. The conflict has brought much-deserved international attention to the long-neglected situation of Burma’s Rohingya. The fact that it is taking place during a period of dramatic change in the country’s governance presents the world with a chance to finally put an end to discrimination against the Rohingya and restore their citizenship.
Rohingya in Bangladesh: Maintaining the Status Quo; Squandering a Rare Opportunity
For decades, Burmese Rohingya fleeing persecution have sought refuge in Bangladesh. June’s inter-communal violence in Burma’s Rakhine State, as well as subsequent state-sponsored persecution and targeted attacks against Muslim populations, have cast an international spotlight on this neglected population, and offered an opportunity to resolve the status of both stateless Rohingya inside Burma and those Rohingya who are refugees in neighboring countries. This could be an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage fully on this issue and develop its long-awaited refugee policy. Instead, the nation is rallying against the Rohingya by refusing entry to refugees and restricting humanitarian assistance. This response, besides representing a breach of international law, will weaken Bangladesh’s ability to secure international support as discussions of the Rohingya's plight intensify. The governments of Bangladesh and Burma should be engaging in bilateral - and perhaps multilateral - discussions about how to protect the rights of the Rohingya community.
South Sudan Nationality: Commitment Now Avoids Conflict Later
As the newest nation in the world, the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) is undertaking the monumental task of building a nation state. Creating a functioning government would be an epic challenge for any country, but it is even greater for RoSS because it is faced with millions of displaced people, internal and external conflict, widespread food insecurity, a stagnant economy, and a population that includes dozens of tribes, ethnicities, indigenous communities and identities. The situation is further complicated by the internal conflict that re-ignited in South Sudan following the decades-long civil war. During the war, southerners were pitted against a common enemy in Khartoum. Now, absent that enemy, competing tribal and ethnic interests are fueling internal conflict, such as in Jonglei state. To ensure the successful transition of RoSS to a functioning nation, an identity must emerge that trumps all these competing interests. Citizenship should be based on place of birth or familial origin without any regard to the person’s color, faith, tribe, ethnicity, or other attribute.
Kuwait: Bidoon Nationality Demands Can’t Be Silenced
As many as 100,000 people living in Kuwait are stateless. Called “bidoon” over the last twelve months thousands have been gathering peacefully in Taima Square to insist that the government recognize their Kuwaiti nationality. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and beatings have all been used to quell the demonstrators. Refugees International (RI) is calling on the Government of Kuwait to refrain from any further use of violence and to investigate serious allegations of abuse by special security forces. As well, pending applications for nationality filed by the stateless bidoon should be fairly and transparently adjudicated as a matter of priority.
Burma: An Opportunity to Expand Humanitarian Space
After nearly 50 years of brutal military rule, Burma is embarking upon a landmark transition to civilian administration. The country has seen some promising political reforms. But the world’s longest civil war, coupled with natural disasters within the country, has created serious humanitarian needs which still persist. Recently, the Burmese government has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with humanitarian agencies. The international community must seize this opportunity to ensure that the needs of the displaced are met, the military’s abuse of human rights are stemmed, and ethnic conflicts progress toward peaceful resolution. Only by addressing both political reform and ethnic conflict will policymakers be able to break the cycles of violence that have gripped the people of Burma.
Kuwait: Gender Discrimination Creates Statelessness and Endangers Families
Gender discrimination in Kuwait’s nationality laws increases the incidence of statelessness by rendering children of Kuwaiti women and bidoon men stateless. Statelessness exposes women to heightened risks of abuse and exploitation. It also endangers family life.
Latvia: The Perilous State of Nationality Rights
Two decades after Latvia reasserted its independence during the breakup of the former Soviet Union, references to its traumatic past still surface in the media and during political debates. Often the Russian-speaking minority is blamed for the crimes of the Soviet regime. Divisive rhetoric of us and them reflects social schisms based on ethno-centric power-grabbing and vilification of “the other.” In the mid 1990s, the Latvian government created a category of “non-citizens”, which continues to impede hundreds of thousands of people from enjoying their right to a nationality. This status should be abolished, and Russian-speaking Latvians should be provided the same rights as other citizens, including the right to vote.
República Dominicana: Nuevas oportunidades para el cambio
La solidaridad impresionante de la República Dominicana tras el terremoto de enero en el vecino país de Haití ya ha conducido a mejores relaciones entre ambos países, que deben mantenerse con la celebración de un acuerdo bilateral sobre política migratoria que respete los derechos humanos. El Gobierno de la República Dominicana debería establecer el reglamento, largamente esperado, de la Ley de Migración de 2004 e instituir un proceso transparente de regularización que abra el camino para la legalización de los extranjeros que han vivido en la República Dominicana durante mucho tiempo. A pesar de los avances en las relaciones con Haití, el Gobierno de la República Dominicana continúa privando ilegalmente a los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana de su nacionalidad, aumentando así la apatridia. Es necesario cambiar esta política.
Dominican Republic: New Chances for Change
The impressive solidarity demonstrated by the Dominican Republic in the
aftermath of the January earthquake in neighboring Haiti already has
led to improved relations between the countries. This must be sustained
by reaching bilateral agreement on a migration policy which respects
human rights. The Dominican Government should pass the long-awaited
regulations for the 2004 Migration Law and put in place a transparent
regularization process that gives a path to legal status to foreigners
who have lived in the DR for long periods. Despite advances in
relations with Haiti the Dominican Government continues to illegally
strip Dominicans of Haitian descent of their nationality and is thus
increasing statelessness. This policy must be changed.
Kuwait: Still Stalling on Statelessness
The government of Kuwait continues to balk at granting nationality to
its approximately 90,000 stateless residents, or bidoon. Lack of legal
status impacts all areas of their lives. Kuwait must begin immediate
and transparent reviews of all bidoon cases towards providing
naturalization. Meanwhile Kuwait should guarantee the bidoon the right
to work and earn equitable incomes, allow their children to enroll in
public schools, provide them healthcare free of charge, and issue
certificates that record births, marriages, and deaths. With Kuwait
about to enter the UN Universal Periodic Review process on May 12,
other states have an immediate opportunity to press the country to take
these steps to address the statelessness problem.
Statelessness: International Blind Spot Linked to Global Concerns
When world leaders gather to address hot issues such as security,
governance, poverty, discrimination, human trafficking, and climate
change, they invariably skirt around one of the problems that links
them all: statelessness. Taking steps to uphold the nationality rights
of the more than 12 million stateless persons around the world could go
a long way toward responding to these inter-related challenges.
Rohingya: Burma’s Forgotten Minority
Among Burma’s ethnic minorities, the Rohingya, a stateless population,
stand out for their particularly harsh treatment by Burmese authorities
and their invisibility as a persecuted minority. Despite decades of
severe repression, there has been minimal international response to the
needs of this extremely vulnerable population compared to other Burmese
Bangladesh: Maintain Momentum to Guarantee Citizenship Rights
For the first time since Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, Urdu
speaking minorities will be eligible to vote in December’s
parliamentary elections. A High Court judgment last May confirmed the
group’s rights to Bangladeshi citizenship, ending nearly four decades
of political and socio-economic exclusion.
Kuwait: Honor Nationality Rights of the Bidun
Kuwait must begin immediate and transparent reviews of all
bidun cases towards providing naturalization and at the same time
consider undertaking a tolerance campaign to address discrimination in
the society at large.
Kuwait should provide civil registry and social services equitably,
particularly ensuring that birth certificates, inclusive of name, are
provided for all children. The Government of Kuwait must move to
resolve statelessness within its borders.
Ethiopia-Eritrea: Stalemate Takes Toll on Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean Origin
Despite strong historic and ethnic ties,
relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have rarely been smooth. As a
result, and particularly over the past decade, nationality rights of
residents of both countries have been at risk.
Dominican Republic: Time to Move Forward to Resolve Statelessness
On May 16, President Leonel Fernandez won a further term in office using the electoral slogan "Pa'lante"
("moving forward") with a campaign message of modernization and
development for the country. But the Dominican Republic is not
utilizing all its human resources to move forward. An illegal
retroactive application of nationality laws is leaving increasing
numbers of Dominicans of Haitian descent functionally stateless.
República Dominicana: Llegó el Momento de Avanzar y Resolver la Apatridia
Cientos de miles de personas han quedado en un limbo legal y, en
práctica, una gran mayoría de ellas se ven sin acceso ni a la
nacionalidad dominicana ni a la haitiana. El pasado 16 de mayo el Presidente Leonel Fernández renovó su mandato
haciendo uso del slogan electoral "Pa’lante" (hacia adelante),
transmitiendo durante su campaña un mensaje de modernización y
desarrollo para el país.
Kenya: National Registration Processes Leave Minorities on the Edge of Statelessness
The ethnic divides that Kenya’s election
crisis brought to light overshadow
another longstanding form of marginalization: obstacles to citizenship
faced by minority groups such as the Nubians, Kenyan Somalis, and
coastal Arabs in the national identification (ID) card registration