Educated estimates tell us that right now, there are between 10 and 12 million stateless people in the world. These are humans who have no nationality. They are not citizens of any country or state. This is an extremely vulnerable position. Being stateless means basic human needs like education, employment, or the ability to travel can be out of reach.
People most commonly become stateless as a result of war, discrimination, failed states, or by being born in the wrong place — or to the wrong person. Obviously, identifying stateless populations is the first step in being able to assist them. But collecting data on stateless people is harder than it seems.
What Happens to Stateless People?
“Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”
~Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Having a nationality isn’t just about personal identity, as the video above demonstrated. Citizenship is effectively “the right to have rights” — and stateless populations are without it. They can’t legally work or attend school. The often lack the documentation needed to open a bank account, get a driving license, or acquire a passport. Think about that for a minute. If you didn’t have citizenship (or some kind of recognized legal residency) in the country where you live, how well would you fare?
Expressing an Experience Through Data
But what does collecting data on stateless people have to do with anything? They’re still people — so how is gathering their data any different?
Data collection processes frequently marginalize stateless populations — intentionally or otherwise. When collecting data on any mobile population, it’s critical to allow individuals to accurately express their situation. When you collect data on stateless people, you need to be even more careful to ensure their story can be recorded in a way that reflects their experience.
Let’s look at some examples.
- Does your list include “stateless” as an option in drop-down menus? It’s not uncommon to use a drop-down list of countries when collecting data on birthplace, residence, or citizenship. If yours does not include an option for stateless respondents, you’ve just made this very vulnerable group even more invisible.
- Does your survey include questions on the birthplace of respondents’ parents? Collecting this information when gathering data on stateless people can provide indicators as to potential causes of statelessness.
Taking care with these types of issues can enable you to collect data on stateless people that is accurate and reflective of their circumstances. In addition, these questions can uncover links that a stateless person might have to the country where the information is being gathered (or other countries). And this can provide clues to help address statelessness. (For example, citizenship might be acquired on the basis of birth, descent, residence, or marriage.)
What Can You Do?
Are you looking for more resources to better understand how to collect data on stateless people? Here are some great places to start:
- Measuring Statelessness Through Population Census
- Data Collection on Stateless Persons in Canada
- Nationality and Statelessness: A Handbook for Parliamentarians
- The World’s Stateless
Need help collecting data on stateless people in a way that’s inclusive and respectful? The team at Datassist is at your service. Drop us a line to discuss your project.