Statelessness and Citizenship
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Statelessness and Citizenship

A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality

Edited by Brad K. Blitz and Maureen Lynch

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are more than 12 million stateless people in the world. The existence of stateless populations challenges some central tenets of international law and contemporary human rights discourses, yet only a very small number of states have made measurable progress in helping individuals acquire or regain citizenship. This fascinating study examines positive developments in eight countries and pinpoints the benefits of citizenship now enjoyed by formerly stateless persons.
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Chapter 2: Nationality and Rights

Laura van Waas


Laura van Waas In the autumn of 2003, a law was passed by the Sri Lankan parliament that promised to change the lives of several hundred thousand of the country’s inhabitants: the Grant of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act. This impressive piece of legislation aspired to bring an end to the marginalization, disenfranchisement and exclusion of the ‘Hill Tamils’ who had lived in a condition of statelessness for many decades by granting them Sri Lankan nationality.1 In time, reports came in of people who had benefited from the new law and who explained in their own words what this policy meant: I was really thankful when my national identity card arrived because it allowed me to travel to Colombo and find work here. I am earning much more than I would have if I stayed on the estate.2 The resolution of cases of statelessness through the reinstatement of the bond of nationality with a state can evidently have a positive impact upon the individual’s enjoyment of rights and quality of life; it can put an end to years, even a lifetime, of exclusion and abuse. But is this always the case? And to what extent does the formal acquisition of a nationality put an end to the difficulties experienced by previously stateless persons? These are the questions that guide the case studies in the chapters to come, where the situation of these new citizens of Sri Lanka and that of other populations whose statelessness has been addressed is...

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