Global Policy Forum

Citizenship and Nationality

Picture Credit:

Citizenship and national identity are shifting in a globalizing world. An increasing number of people carry two or more passports and affluent citizens travel, study and work in multiple lands. Mass migration means that the poor as well as the rich have ties to more than one nation. What does citizenship mean when passports for many countries can be purchased outright and some people even hold elected office in more than one country simultaneously? Clearly, citizenship and national identity are changing -- a sign that the nation state is itself in flux as an "imagined community."

 Articles | Archived


20132012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | Archived


European Commission Bankrolls Anti-Immigrant Policies (March 17, 2013)

Observers are concerned that funding from the European Commission is being used to finance policies and procedures that violate the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers in Greece, many of whom are fleeing the violence in Syria.  Migrants have allegedly been subjected to arbitrary detainment, mistreatment while in the custody of Greek authorities, and unsuitable detention conditions. Some European political figures note that Europe appear reluctant to aid Greece with its devastating social and economic crisis, but are actively financing anti-immigrant measures. They argue that this arrangement of priorities is incompatible with the EU’s stated commitment to human rights. (IPS)

Immigration is Not a Domestic Issue (February 6, 2013)

The United States remains in the midst of a long running dispute over its immigration policies. While most political leaders argue that reform is urgently needed, there is no consensus regarding what action should be taken. President Obama prioritizes a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants, while his opponents argue that a greater emphasis should be placed on security. This article argues that both approaches suffer from a failure to appreciate the international nature and root causes of immigration. If US foreign policies contribute to global inequality, they also exacerbate the pressures of undocumented immigration. While virtually everyone agrees that the US immigration system must be improved, so long as US policymakers continue treating immigration as a domestic matter solutions will prove elusive. (Nation)

'Idle No More' and Colonial Canada (January 30, 2013) 

The Idle No More movement is raising awareness about the poverty and discrimination afflicting Canada’s First Nations Peoples. The Canadian government has been criticized for its lack of action in remedying the various social issues afflicting the country’s indigenous population. Meanwhile, the government has enthusiastically facilitated investment in extractive industries on disputed territory. Critics object to these projects due to a lack of financial compensation and insufficient consultation with indigenous communities. These contemporary issues are grounded in an historic dispute over land rights and treaties between colonial settlers and First Nations. Disagreement over these treaties is the fundamental element of the ongoing struggle between Canadian indigenous peoples and the government. (Al Jazeera)

People Pay for Research Against Migrants (January 11, 2013) 

The European Union’s ongoing efforts to regulate its external borders are raising concerns that the private sector is capitalizing on misguided security policies. The private security and biometric industries have reportedly been extensively involved in the research and policymaking process undertaken by the EU and its member states.  While this has been defended by the European Commission, politicians and observers have criticized the emphasis being placed on surveillance measures, arguing for more consistent standards for asylum seekers and coordinated management of migration to the EU instead of anti-immigrant policies. (IPS)


Understanding the Sanusi of Cyrenaica: How to Avoid a Civil War in Libya (March 26, 2012)

After World War II, Cyrenaica joined the western regions of Tripolitania and Fezzan to form modern-day Libya. King Idris, a Sanusi leader with close ties to Cyrenaica, ruled Libya as its constitutional monarch, until Muammar Gaddafi seized power in Libya through a military coup in 1969. Gaddafi’s regime marginalized Cyrenaica’s tribes in favor of the Gaddafa tribe. In Libya’s post-Gaddafi era, leaders from Cyrenaica announced that they would push for greater autonomy in their region. This al-Jazeera article urges Libya and the National Transition Council to address the concerns of Cyrenaica, and warns that Libya may fall into a chaotic civil war that would frustrate its long-suffering citizens. (al-Jazeera

New Threat Looms over South Sudan Refugees (March 19, 2012)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called African asylum seekers a threat to the state’s “Jewish and democratic character.” The Israeli government announced that it will no longer protect South Sudanese asylum-seekers, who have until March 31, 2012 to leave Israel voluntarily. After that, refugees will be deported by force. But South Sudan is still ridden with internal violence, and sending refugees back would put lives in jeopardy. Israel’s deportation of South Sudanese residents is part of an ongoing effort to expel the state’s non-Jewish migrants. (TerraViva)

The Stateless “Border Brides” of Central Asia (February 17, 2012)

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are about 17,000 stateless people in Kyrgyzstan. Most are Kyrgyzstanis who did not renew their documents after Kyrgyzstan became an independent state. Others are so-called “border brides” from Uzbekistan who married ethnic Uzbek men in southern Kyrgyzstan. The UN’s 1954 and 1961 conventions affirm the rights of stateless people to a nationality, and provide practical steps for states to recognize that right. But Kyrgyzstan is not a member of those conventions and do not have to abide by its agreements. As a result 17,000 people in south Kyrgyzstan, who are embedded in their communities, do not hold the rights or responsibilities of national citizenship. (Eurasianet)


At India-Bangladesh Border, Living in Both and Neither (October 9, 2011)

There are over 50 archipelagos of villages located technically within Bangladeshi territory but entirely surrounded by India, and over 100 similarly situated Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh. For decades, neither government has taken responsibility for these stateless people stuck on the wrong side of the border. Without national citizenship, they lack basic public services like electricity, roads and access to schools and health facilities. Without identity documents, they face the threat of imprisonment as illegal immigrants. But there is reason to hope the question of their citizenship will be resolved soon. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement with his Bangladeshi counterpart in September that would allow the enclaves to dissolve into the country already surrounding them. (New York Times)

How to Protect ‘Invisible’ People (September 26, 2011)

Amal de Chickera, Head of Statelessness and Nationality Projects at the Equal Rights Trust, describes a new initiative calling for the adoption of international standards on the detention of stateless persons. For people who do not have a nationality, traveling across national borders poses the risk of being arbitrarily detained. ERT’s Draft Guidelines provide guidance on how states should address the detention of stateless persons in accordance with international human rights law and also recommend the implementation of national statelessness determination procedures. (Open Democracy)

The Forgotten Faces of Statelessness (August 23, 2011)

Currently 15 million people are stateless around the world. No country recognizes them as citizens, leaving them without access to education, healthcare, land ownership and identity cards as well as exposing them to severe discrimination. The UN, on August 25, will launch an international campaign to shine a light on the hardships experienced by these people. In the meantime some countries, such as Sri Lanka, have made small reforms. However, in the majority of countries stateless people remain forgotten. (Alert Net)

“Unrecognized” Bedouin Stake Land Claims in Israel (April 12, 2011)

The Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib south of Tel Aviv has been demolished 19 times since July 2010. Hidden under the pretence of planting a forest, the destruction of al-Araqib will displace all 300 Bedouin residents. The Jewish National Fund, responsible for the bulldozing of the village, is an organization in charge of forestation and Jewish settlements, raising concern that al-Araqib will be replaced by a settlement where Bedouins will be unwelcome. Although the Israeli authorities have offered to relocate the Bedouin, residents argue that they will be deprived of decent living conditions and will continue to fight the destruction of their homes. (Open Democracy)

Cruel but Quite Usual (March 31, 2011)

The former Soviet state of Uzbekistan has a notorious record for uman rights abuses. Torture and police violence are often justified in the name of the fight against Muslim “extremism” and Uzbek domestic politics are deeply divided. This correlates directly to Uzbekistan’s positive international relations with NATO and the US and through its support for the war against the Taliban. In this documentary, Al Jazeera investigates the cases of Uzbeks seeking refuge abroad in order to escape the oppressive regime and paints a harrowing picture of torture, detainment and deportation. (Al Jazeera)

Forgotten People of the Border Pact (March 29, 2011)

The Chagos Islands have held their first democratic election to appoint a "provisional administration in waiting". Since the eviction of Chagossians from the Chagos Islands in 1967 to make space for a US air base on the largest island of Diego Garcia, repatriation has been the most important demand for Chagossians living abroad. However the concerns of the British, US and Mauritian governments over sovereignty and their fear of potential demands for self-determination by Chagossians has bulwarked any wide scale repatriation program. This article highlights how the provisional government in waiting is not demanding Chagossian independence but promoting peaceful co-existence between former inhabitants and the sovereign powers. (Open Democracy)

Meet the World's Smallest Democratic Government (February 22, 2011)

The former disputed border between Honduras and El Salvador is bulwarking social and economic projects from reaching impoverished citizens living in disputed territories. Although these countries battled hard to acquire territory, residents claim that the respective governments are now depriving communities of basic infrastructure, medical provisions and even citizenship rights. This article highlights how communities feel abandoned by governments who have exclusively been addressing territorial interests. (IPS)

Yugoslavs in the Twenty-First Century: 'Erased' People (February 17, 2011)

Since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, many ethnic Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks and Kosovan Albanians living in Slovenia have been unable to qualify for Slovenian citizenship. These "erased" people often declare themselves as Yugoslavs, a multi-ethnic identity which is rejected by most new nations of the former federation and which denies them entitlement to citizen's rights. The marginalization of Yugoslavs highlights how powerful nationalisms have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of Yugoslavia. (Open Democracy)

Children and Statelessness: A Q & A with Sebastian Kohn (February 3, 2011)

Many assume that children are automatically entitled to citizenship in the country where they are born. Although this right is enshrined in the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, many nations still deny children citizenship, leaving them stateless and without access to healthcare or education. In this interview, Sebastian Kohn, the Justice Initiative's expert on statelessness, clarifies how a lack of nationality is devastating to children and why the loopholes denying citizenship must be combated before more children fall victim to the injustices of statelessness. (Open Society Foundation)

Despairing Georgian Displaced Persons Seek Political Asylum in Europe (February 2, 2011)

The Georgian government has continued with its eviction of internally displaced persons (IDP) from temporary residences in Tbilisi. These IDPs originally fled from the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia during the Georgian-Russian war of 2008. The relocation to rural districts deprives IDPs of access to basic amenities and employment. Amnesty International has condemned the actions of Georgian authorities, stating that no reasonable notice of eviction or adequate financial compensation has been provided. This article demonstrates how this discrimination has resulted in hundreds of IDPs applying for asylum in Europe and the US. (Radio Free Europe)

Bashir Rules Out Dual Citizenship for Southerners (January 8, 2011)

With early indications that South Sudan has voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, the practicalities of creating a new nation must be considered.  One important issue is citizenship.  The president of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, said prior to the referendum that if South Sudan secedes, its citizens will not be able to maintain any citizenship rights in North Sudan, including dual-citizenship.  Discriminatory citizenship rules risk barring some Sudanese from accessing essential services and may give rise to statelessness. (Sudan Tribune)

Uzbek Activist Sues Interior Ministry Over Exit Visa (January 5, 2011)

An Uzbek human rights activist who was denied an exit visa is suing the Interior Ministry. Uzbekistan is the last remaining former USSR country to still require citizens to obtain an exit visa to leave the country. Activists and opposition members allege that exit visas are used by the government to control their activities. In March 2005 the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Uzbekistan remove the exit visa requirement, and did so again in March 2010 when it considered Uzbekistan’s third report. The Uzbek government has so far ignored the UN’s recommendations. (Radio Free Europe)



Expat Baby Limbo (November 26, 2010)

Statelessness has traditionally been a problem of the world's poor and marginalized.  However, with increasing numbers of people choosing to live outside their country of nationality, often for work, it is now also a problem affecting the children of rich professionals.  Certain countries do not automatically confer citizenship to babies born on their soil, and others restrict parents transmitting their nationality abroad.  This creates gaps in citizenship laws that leave children without a nationality. (Reuters)

A Racist Regime Has No Place in EU  (September 16, 2010)

The Sarkozy government may face legal action as a consequence of the Roma deportation. Thousands of EU citizens have simply been deported, from one EU member state to another. Reason? Their ethnicity. The deportations led to a fierce argument between president Sarkozy and the EU Commission President Barroso. EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is "appalled." The reactions are welcome, but all too weak. Eighty-six percent of the Roma in Europe live below the poverty line and are blamed with having a "criminal lifestyle" by many political voices in the continent. The spectre of mass prejudice again raises its head. (The Guardian)

Citizenship: Because I Said So (August 9, 2010)

According to the practice of "birthright citizenship," children born in the United States are granted legal citizenship and the rights that come with it. But these "anchor babies" may not help their parents stay in the country without immigration papers. Between 1997 and 2007, the US deported over 100,000 adults whose children were US citizens. In this US election cycle, some Republicans want to eliminate birthright citizenship altogether by altering the 14th Amendment. This article discusses how birth place relates to the politics of citizenship, and how the state can manipulate and control who "belongs" and who does not. (Huffington Post)

What's in a National Anthem? (April 19, 2010)

National Anthems play an important role in nation building, creating the impression of unity and confirming the existence of an 'imagined community.' Fledgling - or unrecognized - nations use national anthems in an attempt to create and convince others  of their legitimacy as a nation state. Only four months after declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo had established its national anthem, 'Europe.'  Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have only been recognized by a few states, adopted their anthems in 1992 and 1995 respectively. (Radio Free Europe)


As  Election Looms, Nicolas Sarkozy Picks Time for Debate (November 2, 2009)

Eric Besson, French minister of national identity, launched a three month participatory debate on what it "means" to be "French."  Besson is also minister of immigration, reflecting the likelihood that the issues of immigration and national identity will be conflated, further widening the divisions in France. This project - supported by President Nicolas Sarkozy - has been criticized as a cynical ploy to boost ratings before the March regional elections by pandering to the right's national rhetoric.  (Guardian)

Brown Plans New Rules for UK Citizenship (August 3, 2009)

The UK seeks to change its regulations on British citizenship. The new set of rules requires applicants to pass a test and win points before earning the right to carry a UK passport. The proposed measures come after record numbers of migrants entered the UK recently. With the new system, it may take up to 10 years to earn the right to stay. (Bloomberg)

National Rights for All (March 2009)

Some 12 million people around the world are still stateless. Being stateless means having no legal protection or right to participate in political processes, inadequate access to health care and education, travel restrictions, social exclusion, and vulnerability to trafficking. This situation results from many factors, such as political change, expulsion of people from a territory, or discrimination. But unlike refugees, stateless individuals do not benefit from the protection and assistance of governments, aid agencies, or the UN. This report aims to call attention to this problem and to promote solutions coming from the UN by improving coordination among its agencies. (Refugees International)

Democracy for Export: Principles, Practices, Lessons (March 5, 2009)

Professor Daniele Archibugi examines the question of whether democracy can be "exported" to autocratic countries and the conditions under which this is legitimate. As he points out, "imposing a regime from the outside is above all an act of power." In the post-WW2 period, world public opinion has perceived coercive means and military action as a "US imperial projection," which has undermined the legitimacy of the "exporters" of democracy. Instead, Archibugi pleads for a kind of democracy that fosters a direct exchange with citizens of authoritarian countries, by reinforcing the democratic role of international organizations. (OpenDemocracy)



Comparative Citizenship: A Restrictive Turn in Europe? (July 9, 2008)

Most European countries have traditionally constructed their concept of citizenship in individual-centered, non-discriminatory terms. But, author Christian Joppke argues that since 2000, countries such as the Netherlands, France and Denmark implemented more restrictive citizenship measures, partly in response to their failure to integrate Muslim immigrants. Governments passed laws promoting civic integration and preventing "marriages of convenience." Joppke says citizenship policies, on the whole, show both restrictive and liberalizing trends. (Law & Ethics of Human Rights)

Migration-Germany: Some Uneasy Over New Citizenship Test (June 30, 2008)

From September 1, 2008, people who wish to become German citizens must pass a citizenship test, in addition to the previous citizenship requirements. Prospective citizens can take an "integration course" or study on their own before they take the test which measures basic knowledge of German history, politics, geography, and culture. A large majority of the German population supports the new prerequisite. But many immigrant groups oppose the test, viewing it as "one more link in the chain of discrimination." (Inter Press Service)

Plight of the Stateless (June 17, 2008)

The world's 15 million non-citizens cannot work legally or travel, and they have limited access to hospitals and basic bank services. Most non-citizens live in war-torn areas or newly emerged democracies, where governments do not have the capacity to deal with the problem of stateless peoples. The UN affirms everyone's right to a nationality and has two conventions on statelessness. But only 62 countries signed the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and only 34 signed the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. (UNA-USA)

For Foreign Investors, Profit Isn't Only Goal (March 16, 2008)

Thanks to 35 foreign investors, Jay Park ski resort in Vermont will get a new hotel in the fall of 2008. What is in it for these overseas funders, besides two weeks of free skiing? The US EB-5 program will grant them permanent green cards because they invest in a "job-creating business." The program requires $500,000 and a two year commitment to the project. In contrast to the heavy restrictions on ordinary immigrants, the US government generously hands out green cards to those prepared to pay a lot of money for them. (New York Times)

Kazakhstan's Search for Its Identity (March 11, 2008)

When Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, only 40 percent of the population consisted of ethnic Kazakhs. During communism, Stalin sent millions of people from other parts of the Soviet Union to concentration camps in Kazakhstan. Afterwards, those who survived contributed to a multicultural society in the region. This BBC article argues that Kazakhstan needs nation-building as well as a "unifying identity." Schools are at the heart of this, spreading the Kazakh language as a means of solving the "national identity crisis." Simultaneously, people are trying to unite through a common tribal history before Russian Tsars imposed their influence. This, however, jeopardizes the integration of non-Kazakhs in the society, fears historian Nurbulat Masanov.



Over 100,000 'Stateless' People Offered Citizenship (September 14, 2007)

The Bangladesh government has granted citizenship to a large part of the Bihari population. The Urdu-speaking Muslim group was once part of India but Bangladeshi law stripped the people of any political rights and isolated the group for siding with Pakistan during the struggle for independence. While the UNHCR put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to treat the Biharis according to refugee conventions, the influential NGO Refugees International campaigned actively for the implementation of a full citizenship. (OneWorld US)

The Excluded: The Strange Hidden World of the Stateless (September 2007)

Small island states could disappear in the near future due to climate change, leaving thousands of islanders stateless. As states have never before simply vanished, who should bear the responsibility for the suddenly stateless people? This UNHCR publication reports that 5.8 million people in the world are officially recognized as stateless but that the number is probably closer to 15 million. Some end up stateless because their country has changed in a particular way; decolonized, dissolved etc. Others are victims of ethnic, political or religious discrimination. Though politicians in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal have implemented rights for some former stateless people, much still needs to be done.

The Stateless Are "Life's Passengers" (May 15, 2007)

Thousands of Mozambican children live a "stateless existence" in Zimbabwe - the remnants of Mozambique's 17 year civil war - reports this Integrated Regional Information Networks piece. The author argues that many Mozambican refugees are unable to obtain Zimbabwean citizenship because their identity documents were lost as they fled the war. Ultimately lacking these documents means thousands of people are denied access to social services in Zimbabwe, such as education and healthcare.

New Year Bonus for Indonesia's Chinese (March 2, 2007)

This Asia Times piece reports on Indonesia's new citizenship law, which defines an Indonesian national as anyone born in the country. This represents a victory for Chinese-Indonesians "approximately two percent of the population"  who have been considered stateless since a 1967 crackdown on the Chinese population by former Indonesian President Suharto. The author argues that this new law combined with national recognition of Chinese holidays demonstrates the government's willingness to integrate the Chinese community into Indonesia.

Côte d'Ivoire: Address Root Causes of Conflict to Prevent and Reduce Statelessness (February 15, 2007)

The problem of citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire continues, where millions of inhabitants in the region are discriminated against for lack of so-called "Ivoirite" or "Ivorian ethnicity." The Ivorian government's plan to issue new identity documents to the entire population has so far failed due to President Gbagbo's opposition. Refugees International recommends, amongst other things, that UNHCR seek support from the international community to assist in the statelessness identification and remedy process.

Immigrants Open New Path to Europe (February 15, 2007)

This International Herald Tribune article reports that increasing numbers of Asian immigrants are attempting to reach Europe by way of Spain's Canary Islands. Because many of the immigrants do not bring their passports or visas on the final leg of the journey, thus becoming "stateless," no country feels obligated to accept them.

Managing Globalization: The Global Quest for a Second Passport (February 6, 2007)

Increasing numbers of people are pursuing citizenship in second or third countries, reports this International Herald Tribune article. The author argues that citizenship is no longer about identity, rather people view dual or triple nationalities as a convenience as it enables them to earn a better living or be entitled to a better social welfare system.

Australians Debating Immigration and National Identity (January 28, 2007)

The Australian government announced that it is changing the name of its Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and will make citizenship requirements harder to fulfill. This International Herald Tribune article argues that such assimilative actions are designed to stop immigrants from clinging to "inappropriate" aspects of their cultural heritage that are seen as incompatible with Australian culture.



FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.