As part of #IBelong, a Global Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today launches a report on the mapping of statelessness in Lithuania at an expert Round Table in Vilnius. UNHCR’s report contains the key findings and recommendations for steps to prevent people from being born into a life of statelessness in Lithuania, and enable those who are stateless today to acquire Lithuanian citizenship. As of July 2016, there were about 3,400 stateless people living in Lithuania.
“UNHCR has mapped the situation of statelessness in Lithuania and found that Lithuania prevented the creation of a potentially significant statelessness problem after the dissolution of the Soviet Union through the “zero option”, and is today home to a relatively small number of stateless people. Some of these people have more recently migrated to Lithuania. UNHCR stands ready to support the Lithuanian Government in facilitating the naturalisation of these stateless people, and in considering measures aimed at preventing new people from being born into a life of statelessness, as well as establishing procedures for the identification and protection of stateless people in the migratory context. By building on the positive steps taken over the past decades, including Lithuania’s accession in 2013 to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, UNHCR believes that Lithuania can reach the Global Campaign’s goal of ending statelessness on its territory by 2024”, says Karolina Lindholm Billing, Deputy Regional Representative of UNHCR in Northern Europe.
Statelessness in Lithuania arose primarily against the backdrop of its restoration of independence from the Soviet Union, and the subsequent dissolution of the latter. Most of the stateless people living in Lithuania today did not, or could not at the time, obtain Lithuanian citizenship through the so-called “zero option” available between 1989 and 1991. UNHCR’s mapping has found that around 40 per cent of the stateless population in Lithuania were born in Lithuania, while most of the others were born in former Soviet Republics
Today’s event brings together UNHCR and national experts from various institutions and organisations with the aim of exchanging experiences in dealing with statelessness, and considering UNHCR findings and recommendations on ways to bring the national legal framework, policy and practice fully in line with the international standards on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, and protection of stateless people.
UNHCR’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years, #IBelong, was launched in November 2014. The strategy for the campaign is set out in the 2014-2024 Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, which establishes a guiding framework of 10 Actions States are called to undertake with the support of UNHCR and other stakeholders with a view to resolving existing major situations of statelessness; preventing new cases of statelessness from emerging; and better identifying and protecting stateless populations.
In 1974, UNHCR was mandated by the UN General Assembly to assist stateless people under the 1961 Convention, and in 1995 UNHCR’s mandate expanded globally to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons. Lithuania became a State Party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons in 2000 and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 2013.