U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary Dave Robinson today said statelessness hinders national prospects for democratization, development, and stability.
Mr. Robinson reported that the United Nations estimates that as many as 12 million people worldwide, lives with sad reality of being abandoned and marginalized.
“12 million marginalized people. 12 million people that belong… nowhere. This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It seems an appropriate time to shine a light into the shadows, to take this old fashioned sounding problem and consign it once and for all, to the pages of history.” -Mr. Robinson
He stressed that the United States regards statelessness as both a human rights and a humanitarian problem. He said it runs roughshod over respect for individual rights and simple human dignity. He reported that U.S. diplomats around the world advocate with other governments to amend nationality laws that create or contribute to statelessness.
“In fact, Secretary Clinton is leading our efforts to combat discrimination against women in nationality laws. In addition, we are the single largest contributor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the agency holding the mandate to protect stateless people, contributing over $691 million to their budget this past fiscal year.” -Mr. Robinson
He said the United State views statelessness as a problem that can and should be solved, and they believe there are solutions that recognize every sovereign nation’s right to control its borders and its internal laws.
According to Mr. Robinson, in their hemisphere, and especially in the Caribbean, statelessness for Haitians and persons of Haitian descent is pernicious and tragic. He said the plight of undocumented Haitian migrants living in limbo because they simply cannot access civil registry documents long pre-dates the 2010 earthquake and is largely the responsibility of the Government of Haiti to solve.
“We are prepared to help, but the Government of Haiti needs to fix its dysfunctional civil registry system and strengthen its consular function throughout the Caribbean. Without those advances, thousands of Haitian migrants will continue to suffer de facto statelessness simply because the documents to which they have a recognized and unencumbered right are simply out of reach.” -Mr. Robinson
He cited that Haitians suffer the same ills as all stateless people: Unable to legally travel or work, unable to register births, marriages or deaths, and unable to come out of the shadows.
“The Dominican Republic, with its efforts to modernize its own civil registry process, can serve as a model or guide for Haiti and other countries in the region, and we hope it will.” -Mr. Robinson
Mr. Robinson stressed that the United States is proudly and self-consciously a nation of immigrants. He said it embraces the hyphen: Irish-American, German-American, Haitian-American, Dominican-American.
“It goes on and on. We recognize that it is not our ethnic background that makes us American. We understand, and we cherish the understanding, that we do not have to wash away our ethnicity to be fully and completely Americans with all the rights and responsibilities our nationality implies.” -Mr. Robinson