The Middle East’s Growing Population of Stateless Children

How It Works
July 25 2014 12:28 PM

Stateless in the Middle East

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A Syrian girl leans out of a window in a disused house on June 28, 2014 in the Fikirtepe area of Istanbul.

Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Deborah Amos of NPR reports on an overlooked aspect of Syria’s refugee crisis. Thousands of the  children born to the roughly 2.5 million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries may have no citizenship:

 A recent report by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, suggests that 75 percent of Syrians born in Lebanon since 2011 have not been properly registered. Many families don't have any identification documents, which were destroyed in the fighting or left behind in a panicked escape.

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The numbers are even harder to come by in Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are unregistered. They slipped across the border for safety, but their babies born in Turkey have no official status.

There are about 12 million stateless people in the world today, many as the result of the breakup of states in the former Yugoslavia or Soviet Union, or because of ethnic discrimination. Stateless people often have difficulty in gaining access to legal protection, social services, or education, and have difficulties traveling—one reason why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a “right to a nationality.”

In the case of Syrian refugees, many parents still haven’t formally registered in the countries where they are living, for fear of the information getting back to the Syrian authorities, leaving themselves and their children in legal limbo.

So in addition to the future of the Middle East’s borders being very much in doubt, it seems there’s going to be a sizable future population with no nationality at all.  

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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