UNHCR praises the Republic of Lithuania for taking further steps to prevent and reduce statelessness through accession to the 1961 Convention. Lithuania is already a State party to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, since 1999.
“Lithuania?s accession is an important milestone which demonstrates a growing awareness in the Northern Europe region about the importance of having a nationality for the ability to exercise ones human rights and feel a belonging to the country in which you live. I commend Lithuania for its leadership and commitment to taking further steps to prevent and reduce statelessness, and reaffirm UNHCR?s readiness to support Lithuania in its implementation of 1961 Convention” said Pia Prytz Phiri, UNHCR?s Regional Representative for the Baltic and Nordic countries.
There are nearly 400,000 persons registered as holding no citizenship in the Northern Europe region, most of whom live in the Baltic States. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, a high number of people with expired Soviet passport remained in these countries without citizenship. Lithuania has taken important steps towards reducing the number of persons left stateless. Through its accession to the 1961 Convention it is also demonstrating its commitment towards preventing the creation of future generations of stateless persons by becoming party to the treaty which provides for the granting of nationality to children who would otherwise be stateless.
On 1 July 2013, Lithuania assumed the Presidency of the European Union. By acceding at this time, Lithuania is clearly leading by example and UNHCR hopes that other European countries which are not yet party to the global statelessness conventions will follow in Lithuania?s footsteps. Lithuania?s accession also brings the pledge made by the EU, at the UN High-Level Rule of Law Meeting in New York in 2012, one step closer to completion. That pledge committed all EU Member States which have not yet done to address the issue of statelessness by becoming parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. 24 of 28 EU Member States are parties to the 1954 Convention and 16 to the 1961 Convention.
Statelessness can occur for a number of reasons, and its impact on those affected can be dramatic. For example, after the breakup of States, some individuals may fail to acquire the nationality of any of the newly independent States ? a situation which leaves them stateless, leading to other serious denials of rights.
Following Nicaragua?s accession just last week, the 1954 Convention now has 78 parties and establishes minimum standards of treatment for stateless persons. The 1961 Convention, which now has 52 state parties, requires that States implement its framework of safeguards that prevent statelessness, such as by requiring that people cannot renounce their nationality without first having acquired another. Achieving an increased number of states parties to the UN Statelessness Conventions is key to addressing statelessness, a problem which affects hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and at least 10 million people worldwide.
Photo: ?UNHCR Before acceding 1961 Convention Lithuania was a party to the 1954 Convention only. GREEN – Parties to the 1954 and the 1961 Conventions, YELLOW – Parties to the 1954 Convention only
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