By Neneh Galleh Barry
Mr. Sekou K. Saho, the head of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Gambia has said that at least 10 million people worldwide are stateless. The UNCHR boss made this statement at the first anniversary of the Banjul Plan of Action on the eeradication of statelessness held at NaNa Conference Hall recently.
According to Saho those who are unfortunate to fall into this category often face considerable obstacles as a result of their lack of nationality. He added that not only are they unable to enjoy rights that specifically require a relationship with a state (such as voting) but it also make it not possible to easily move within their localities.
Saho describe a stateless person as a person who lacks or has no nationality, adding that nationality is the legal bond between a person and a state. Lacking such bondages denies the person not only a sense of identity but more importantly the ability to exercise a wide range of rights associated with the nationality status.
Also speaking at the opening, was Famara Fadera deputy commissioner & statelessness focal person. Fadera said even though there is no comprehensive legal framework to address these gaps, significant efforts have been made by ECOWAS Member States to respond to the issue of statelessness.
According to him, the Authority of States and Government has adopted Protocols further to Revised Treaty of Ecowas which address some dimensions of Statelessness including the 1979 Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right to Residence and Establishment and the 1982 Protocol Relating to the definition of a Community Citizen.
He said the Abidjan Declaration is a historical instrument and a milestone in the fight against statelessness in West Africa. He added that the Declaration was adopted during the first Ministerial Conference on Statelessness in Abidjan, Cote D’ivoire, jointly organized by ECOWAS and UNHCR in February 2015.
He continues to say that the Abidjan Declaration recognizes that statelessness is a significant issue in the region and sets out 25 specific measures, primarily addressed to ECOWAS Member States on how to put an end to statelessness by 2024.
He went further to explain that the Banjul Plan of Action on Eradication of Statelessness 2014-2017 was adopted during the Second Ecowas Ministerial Conference on Statelessness in Banjul, the Gambia in May 2017.
“The Plan of Action entails support measures that ECOWAS and UNHCR can provide to Member States in accordance with Articles 22 and 25 of the Abidjan Declaration; it includes measures that ECOWAS will adapt to follow-up on the requests made by Member States in the Abidjan Declaration and it spells out mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of the Abidjan Declaration.” He asserted.
By Neneh Galleh Barry