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Switzerland could do more for the stateless, UN body finds

In 2014, UNHCR launched the #IBelong (#I belong) campaign to end statelessness worldwide by 2024. Keystone

Switzerland has been slammed for its conservative approach when it comes to protecting the rights of stateless individuals.  

This content was published on November 13, 2018 - 17:27

In Europe, Switzerland remains particularly restrictive with regards to applying the rights granted internationally to stateless persons – those who do not belong to any nationality. 

This attitude is documented in an unprecedented studyExternal link conducted by the Swiss office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 

UNHCR found that in Switzerland sovereignty takes precedence over the protection needs of those “who do not have the right to have rights”, as the organisation puts it. In five years, the number of stateless persons in Switzerland recognised as such by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)External link has increased from about 150% to more than 600.

However, according to UNHCR, more than 1,000 other people are affected. They are classified as "without nationality" or nationals of an "unknown state" by the Swiss authorities. 

UNHCR believes some among them would probably be eligible for stateless status and the rights conferred on them by several international conventions. 

Solved by 2024?

Stateless people emerged with the establishment of new nations following the First World War. Despite the international conventions on refugees and stateless persons established in the second half of the 20th century, there are now some 10 million stateless peopleExternal link in the world, according to UNHCR.

The issue garnered international attention during the mass killings of the Rohingya, a minority deprived of nationality by Myanmar, now accused of genocide against this mainly Muslim community.  

In 2014, UNHCR launched the #IBelong campaignExternal link to end statelessness worldwide by 2024. It is within this framework, that the Swiss office of the UN agency published its country-specific study released on Tuesday.

The study makes it possible to assess the increasing number of people who can be considered stateless in Switzerland. 

Switzerland has no specific legislation on statelessness but applies the definition of Article 1 of the 1952 Convention, according to SEM, the body empowered to grant stateless status in Switzerland.

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