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December 8, 2011

Update from UNHCR’s Ministerial Meeting: Secretary Clinton voices support for lawful employment opportunities

by Asylum Access

By: Jessica Morreale Therkelsen, Global Policy Manager, Asylum Access

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added her voice to those highlighting the need for lawful employment for refugees and stateless persons at UNHCR’s Ministerial Meeting this week. She focused her remarks on the importance of forward-looking policies to address the needs and rights of refugees and stateless persons and called on countries to turn their pledges into actions.

Secretary Clinton, who addressed the audience in person, highlighted some key legal restrictions that  cause statelessness.

At least 30 countries around the world prevent women from acquiring, retaining, or transmitting citizenship to their children or their foreign spouses. And in some cases, nationality laws strip women of their citizenship if they marry someone from another country. Because of these discriminatory laws, women often can’t register their marriages, the births of their children, or deaths in their families.

She then turned to the significant impact this status has on individuals

So these laws perpetuate generations of stateless people, who are often unable to work legally or travel freely. They cannot vote, open a bank account, or own property, and therefore they often lack access to healthcare and other public services. And the cycle continues, because, without birth registration or citizenship documents, stateless children often cannot attend school. (emphasis added)

By highlighting the laws that cause statelessness, and subsequent violations of the rights to education, employment and basic services, Secretary Clinton has established an important connection that links State behavior to human rights violations. This important link is often missing when discussing refugees and statelessness, and is crucial to providing refugees and stateless persons with dignity and access to rights.

You can find the full text of Secretary Clinton’s remarks here.

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