Reporting on statelessness? Advances in 2015 data


Collecting data on stateless populations presents a number of logistical and methodological challenges, yet it is incredibly important to ensure that their stories are told. The following extract from UNHCR's new report on Global Trends in Forced Displacement looks at how data on statelessness has progressed over the past year.

Statelessness, the situation when a person does not have the nationality of any country, restricts the enjoyment of fundamental human, social, and political rights, such as access to education, health care and freedom of movement. UNHCR estimates that at least 10 million people globally are stateless, while the current statistical data cover 3.7 million stateless persons in 78 countries.


Image: UNHCR.

Collecting comprehensive data on stateless populations presents a particular challenge because stateless individuals frequently live in precarious situations on the margins of society. Identifying stateless people, however, remains key to addressing the difficulties they face and to enabling the efforts of governments, UNHCR, and others to prevent and reduce statelessness.

In November 2014, UNHCR launched the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness and its accompanying Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014- 2024. The plan sets out a guiding framework of 10 actions to be taken to end statelessness within 10 years. Successful implementation of the plan requires improved baseline population data, and two of the plan’s actions relate to the identification of stateless persons and to improving data on the situation of stateless people.

Various methods may be used to gather data on stateless people, including civil registries, surveys, and population censuses. Population censuses are a particularly important source of data, given that they are intended to enumerate the entire population of a country and the majority of countries implement a census approximately once a decade. The United Nations’ recommendations on population censuses underscore the importance of including questions related to citizenship and on statelessness.46 Where countries have published statistics on stateless people derived from their censuses, such data have been included in this report.

In addition, UNHCR collaborates with the different parts of the United Nations, in particular at the regional level, to further refine these recommendations on stateless persons for the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme. An increasing number of countries are now including these questions in their censuses, which they are carrying out under the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme. Together with increased data collection – including disaggregated data as well as improved birth registration targets under both the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – UNHCR expects further improvement in data quality and coverage in the coming years.

In this report, several sources were used to collect data on people included under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate, primarily governments, UNHCR, and non-governmental organizations. Governments accounted for more than half (56%) of the data collected. While UNHCR alone accounted for 23 per cent of the data collected on stateless persons, 8 per cent were jointly collected by governments and UNHCR. The remaining 13 per cent were collected by various other sources. Despite the increased number of countries engaged in reporting and the enhanced reliability of their figures, UNHCR was unable to provide comprehensive statistics on stateless persons in all countries. By the end of 2015, statistics on people falling under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate were available for 78 countries, up by one country since 2014.


​Image: UNHCR.

In addition, this spreadsheet includes some countries marked with an asterisk for which UNHCR has information about the existence of significant stateless populations but for which no reliable figures were available. These countries remain priorities for UNHCR in its efforts towards improved data on statelessness. Progress also continued to be made to reduce the number of stateless persons through the acquisition or confirmation of nationality. A reported 49,100 stateless persons in 20 countries acquired nationality during 2015.

Read the full report here.