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 7: The Urdu-speakers of Bangladesh: An Unfinished Story of Enforcing Citizenship Rights

Katherine Southwick


Katherine Southwick Source: © Greg Constantine 2010. Figure 7.1 Overcrowding plagues every camp. Living conditions are cramped and pose safety and health problems as families, some as large as 15, live in 8 x 10 feet living spaces. In a room decorated with old newspapers glued to the walls, a family of seven lives and works in Kurmi Tola Camp in Dhaka. Members of the Urdu-speaking minority in Bangladesh have always had a right to citizenship under national law, but the challenge has come from enforcing that right and the benefits that attach to it. Bangladeshi courts have recognized Urdu-speakers as citizens in successive cases 115 M2482 - BLITZ PRINT.indd 115 21/12/2010 11:56 116 Statelessness and citizenship over the years. However, since the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, the state has failed to acknowledge them as citizens on a broad political and administrative level. This protracted disconnect between law and policy has made the group’s status uncertain, effectively stateless. For nearly four decades, the unwillingness of either government, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, to formally recognize this community as citizens has rendered an estimated 160 000–500 000 people vulnerable to extreme poverty and without equal access to education, health services and livelihoods. Time, however, as well as the accretion of case law, has confirmed this group’s citizenship. Since the most recent 2008 High Court decision ordering government agencies to register individuals to vote and to issue national identification cards, perceptions have shifted to the point where few can credibly...

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