A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality
Edited by Brad K. Blitz and Maureen Lynch
Chapter 2: Nationality and Rights
2. Nationality and rights 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...
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