A Long Road to Citizenship
Bishkek, 12 September 2018 – Today, 15 previously stateless people who newly became Kyrgyz citizens received national passports in a ceremony commemorating their access to basic rights and services as nationals of a state. “Your new passport is more than a document. It is a proof of your legal connection to the state. You will be able to move freely, to own property, to receive pension and healthcare, and to register your life events and that of your children such as birth and marriage, and finally to participate in the democratic process”, said Ms. Yasuko Oda, Regional Representative/Regional Coordinator of UNHCR for Central Asia. The ceremony was organized jointly by the Representation of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Government in Osh province, and the Department of Registration of Population and Acts of Civil Status of the State Registration Service under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Millions of stateless people around the world face challenges in accessing basic rights and services on a daily basis. Kyrgyzstan is familiar with this phenomenon. Of the 13,000 registered stateless persons on its territory, 12,000 have had their situation resolved with the granting of citizenship. According to the State Registration Service (SRS) data, more than 50,000 persons had their Kyrgyz citizenship clarified and confirmed between 2010 and 2014. In 2014, UNHCR and the Kyrgyz Government launched a joint project to address the remaining cases of statelessness with the aim to identify stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness across the country.
The majority of stateless persons in Kyrgyzstan are individuals who never acquired or received confirmation of citizenship following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Others became stateless later due to the gaps in nationality laws, international migration, and mixed marriages. Although well integrated in the local community, stateless and undocumented persons face the insurmountable obstacles associated with lack of citizenship and identity documentation such as registering marriage and childbirth, traveling abroad, or receiving social benefits such as pensions and health insurance. With the granting of citizenship, these newly documented Kyrgyz citizens will finally be able to access to education, healthcare, legal employment, property ownership, political participation, as Kyrgyz citizens.
“Despite advances made in reducing statelessness, millions of people all over the world still live as ”invisible” - without legal identities, and unrecognized as citizens by any state.” Ms. Oda stated, “I am very pleased that the 15 people received a passport today, and wish to commend the Kyrgyz government’s commitment to addressing this human rights issue. I very much look forward to our continued partnership with the Kyrgyz authorities for accelerating the efforts further to bring statelessness to a close in near future”.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees leads and co-ordinates humanitarian action to protect refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless people in Kyrgyzstan. UNHCR provides assistance to the state authorities in establishing fair and efficient asylum systems, and in preventing and reducing statelessness.
A Long Road to Citizenship