Most of us who are permanent citizens of a sovereign and well-organized nation engage this stroke of luck with no appreciation. Most of us can inscribe ourselves in enhanced circumstances like better studies, jobs, safe environment with hygienic food and atmosphere. We acquired these rights from our birth and shall possess the same till death however what it feels to be stateless is something beyond imagination. Disadvantage of being stateless ranges from liberty to choose your residence to liberty to choose your representatives.
The right to citizenship is of preponderant significance for the implementation of additional fundamental human rights. Individuals who lack citizenship are one of the most vulnerable therefore the most efficient way of suppressing such circumstances is to grant citizenship right after birth. The individuals who lack citizenship are called stateless and are defined “as person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”
The concept of birthright citizenship around the world is a widely debated term. Birthright citizenship around the world has different interpretations and understandings. For some countries birthright is a legal right while others have withdrawn their support to grant birthright citizenship without any condition. To grant birthright citizenship to people different states have different standard procedure and protocol which governs who can stay within the territorial jurisdiction of the state and who shall leave after expiry of certain duration of time.
According to current administrative international law, states are at liberty to decide if they want to grant birthright citizenship to people who usually belong to some other nation. The governing legal principles which contribute to the citizenship of children are “jus soli” and “jus sanguinis”. The Birthright citizenship is based on the Latin term ‘jus soli’ which literally means ‘right of soil’. It is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship. “Jus Sanguinis” literally means “law relating to blood”. It is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents. Children at birth may be citizens of a particular state if either or both of their parents have citizenship of that state.
There are states which may grant citizenship but on certain conditions, there are states which do not place any condition before granting citizenship therefore a uniform procedure shall be adopted by all the states in accordance with the International laws reserved in numerous United Nations conventions.
The present Article highly emphasizes on problems with stateless persons and International citizenship laws with conclusion on how providing citizenship can assist stateless persons.
International Legal Aspect.
International legal jurisprudence has numerous conventions and laws which govern the birthright citizenship or citizenship in general. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the convention defines the term “refugee” and underscores the right of refugees, as well as the legal obligation of states to protect the refugees. The1967 Optional Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees is the extension of 1951 convention and also deals with rights of refugees. The 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons is the most vital convention which reserves the rules and regulations with duty of state towards those who do not have any nationality. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness is a complementary convention to the 1954 convention powered with the same motive i.e., to reduce the population of stateless individuals by providing them nationality.
The 1997 European Convention on Nationality has jurisdiction across Europe and concerns numerous international instruments relating to nationality, multiple nationality and statelessness. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which has jurisdiction across all African States, in its Article 6 states that “Every child shall have the right from his birth to a name. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality”.
The American Convention on Human Rights having jurisdiction across all the American states, its Article 20 states that “Every person has the right to nationality of the state in whose territory he was born if he does not have the right to any other nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or of the right to change it.
The Arab Charter on Human Rights has jurisdiction over all Arab countries and its Article 24 states that “No citizen shall be arbitrarily denied his original nationality, nor denied his right to acquire another nationality without legal basis”.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Art. 9) states “Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. They shall ensure in particular that neither marriage to an alien nor change of nationality by the husband during marriage shall automatically change the nationality of the wife, render her stateless or force upon her the nationality of the husband. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children”.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Article 5(d) (iii)) states “the right to nationality”.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 7 and 8) states that “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless”. (Article 7)
“States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. 2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity”. (Article 8)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art. 24(3)) states “Every child has right to acquire nationality”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 15) states that “Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.
Countries which grant Birthright Citizenship
Many countries in the world grant birthright citizenship i.e., by descent at least for the first generation of children born abroad. Most American countries grant unconditional citizenship when a child takes birth in their territorial jurisdiction. The United States of America (U.S.A) is one of the most significant countries to grant this right. The legacy of birthright citizenship was given to the U.S.A. by the XVI Amendment Act, 1868. Other than U.S. the countries which grant birthright citizenship are Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Lesotho, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, and Pakistan
Countries which previously granted Birthright Citizenship
According to a United Nations report it is estimated that the countries with the greatest number of stateless persons residing within their borders are Cote d’Ivoire, Estonia, Kuwait, Latvia, Myanmar, Russia, Syria, Thailand, and Uzbekistan.
The countries which previously provided birthright citizenship includes Anguilla, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man), Côte d’Ivoire, Falkland Islands, France, Gibraltar, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Malta, Montserrat, Nepal, New Zealand, Saint Helena, Samoa, Singapore, Turks & Caicos, United Kingdom.
Countries which grant conditional birthright citizenship
Certain nations grant citizenship on some conditions which are to be fulfilled before the birth of the child so that the child can gain citizenship from birth. The conditions under which birthright citizenship is granted are based on status of parents and length of residency, on age and residency of child (automatic & by petition), combining parental status and child’s age and residency and based on race or ethnicity. The countries who issue birthright citizenship with these conditions includes Albania, Anguilla, Australia, Belgium, Benin, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man), Colombia, Chile, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Gibraltar, Guinea, Ireland, Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, New Zealand, Niger, Portugal, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Turks and Caicos, United Kingdom and Yemen. A few of these countries also have other grounds to grant birthright citizenship.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Birthright Citizenship
In 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 10 Million people to be stateless. Granting Citizenship shall cease to diminish the number of stateless people in the world. Elements like unemployment, lack of education, lack of livelihood, lack of residence and food can be eliminated if a person is granted birthright citizenship without any difficulties.
Birthright citizenship affirms that anyone born in a country which grants birthright citizenship is automatically a citizen with no other conditions. Birthright citizenship also promotes individuals to move to a nation for the benefit of their children. The idea of this is that they will ensure a better livelihood for their children if the parents give birth inside the territorial jurisdiction of a country with birthright citizenship.
Granting citizenship to everyone who is born in a foreign country might get exposed to discrimination on the basis of region, country, color, race, religion etc. A child born in a foreign country faces potential risk of being stateless if the child’s parent’s national do not grant the child birthright citizenship. Granting birthright citizenship to another state nation’s child may significantly increase the general population which might cause problems like unemployment, poverty etc. Another disadvantage is granting unconditional citizenship to people may overburden the society which already has much population. By overpopulation the graph of crime is likely to raise.
The international laws have numerous legal provisions which protect the rights of citizenship around the world. Despite many international citizenship laws, the world possesses 10 Million people who are stateless therefore it is the vital need to grant birthright citizenships from the beginning so that the vast number of stateless people can be reduced and nobody in future faces exploitation and discrimination only because of the ground that they do not have citizenship. The most efficient way is only to grant birthright citizenship which will not only help in smooth working of government in registering nonresidents but also avoid mess which arises later when the child grows up to a significant age and until then the child remains stateless. The phenomenon of being stateless not only ruins millions of lives but also it makes people suffer for years in order to gain citizenship of a particular country.
Since the international laws are non-binding on states therefore, they are not of much significance but if the laws concerning granting compulsory citizenship are enforced in an effective way, then the world might not witness stateless persons. All the national legislations in the world must be amended in such a way that they provide citizenship without any discrimination and due process of law however the very law shall not be abused by people by obtaining several citizenships. The law must have some sympathy towards those who remain stateless and by gaining the stateless citizenship the state may compensate the victims of statelessness.
Varchaswa Dubey, JECRC University (BBA LLB)