By Tabora Bojang
The head of UN High Commission for Refugees in The Gambia, Sekou K Saho, has called on the Gambian state to amend some clauses in laws dealing with nationality attainment in accordance with international standards in order to help contribute address statelessness.
Speaking at the first anniversary of the Banjul Plan of Action on statelessness, which is designed to help solve obstacles in the attainment of nationality in The Gambia, Saho said so many people are at the risk of being stateless because they are without documents proving their identity or nationality and have no idea on legal frameworks to attaining citizenship.
The UNCHR boss said where nationality is the ‘legal bond between persons and a state’, lacking it denies the person of not only a sense of identity but also the ability to exercise other rights.
“In The Gambia,” he said, “legal and administrative, reforms on the prevention and reduction of statelessness are required. Imagine someone born and grown up here and all his life only knows about the Gambia but not considered a citizen because the parents are not Gambian.”
He added; “If this people are not citizens of The Gambia, no other country will recognise them as citizens because one has to prove your original citizenship to acquire naturalisation or dual citizenship in any country”.
According to Saho, lack of nationality can be devastating in the life of an inndividual and prevents them from fulfilling their potentials which has some huge knock-on effects for social cohesion and stability.
“These are some of our concerns in our nationality law that needs to be amended in the new constitution and when consultations begin, we would be interested and support The Gambia Commission for refugees to ensure that they are amended.
“Now that the government is going to re-start issuance of biometric cards, it is very important people come forward who are Gambians and register properly.”
At least one million people in West Africa alone are reported to be stateless with gaps in nationality laws and policies that leave some people without recognition of nationality of any state.
Ecowas Interior ministers adopted the Banjul Plan of Action on statelessness in The Gambia last year. The ambitious regional plan covering 2017-24, aims to contribute to eradicate statelessness in West Africa.