Russia has started issuing ‘non-citizen passports.’ What does that mean?

Of note:

On January 11, Eva Merkacheva, who sits on the Presidential Council for Human Rights, told RIA Novosti that Russia had granted its first ever “non-citizen passport” to Yakubdzhan Khakimdzhanov, a stateless person originally from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The 53-year-old immigrated to Astrakhan at the age of five, but never received Russian citizenship.

Later, Elena Burtina of the migrants’ rights organization Civic Assistance Committee clarified to Meduza that authorities in Moscow began issuing “non-citizen passports” in December 2021. Other Russian regions began issuing these identity documents even earlier, with roughly 600 people obtaining them last year.

What is a “non-citizen”? Is this a legal term in Russia?

Russia doesn’t have a separate legal category of “non-citizens,” such as in Latvia and Estonia, for example. The people receiving “non-citizen passports” in Russia are, in fact, stateless persons. In Russian law, this refers to a category of people who are not citizens of Russia, but who also don’t have proof that they have the citizenship of a foreign state. According to the Interior Ministry, there are an estimated 4,500 stateless persons living in Russia today. As of August 2021, each of these people are eligible for a green “Temporary identity card of a stateless person in the Russian Federation.”

How does a person end up stateless?

Situations may vary, but in Russia stateless persons typically held citizenship of the former USSR. They may have been born in one of the union republics and, shortly before or after the collapse of the Soviet Union, moved to the Russian SFSR and, as a result, never received citizenship in their homeland or in Russia (unlike registered residents, who received Russian citizenship automatically). Or, they may have renounced their birth citizenship after their homeland gained independence, and never obtained another citizenship.

Why do stateless persons need “non-citizen passports”?

These temporary identity documents allow stateless people to live and work in Russia legally for a period of ten years (with the possibility of extension). Unlike foreign nationals, they don’t need to apply for a work permit or a labor patent to be employed officially.

Why does Russia make these exceptions for stateless persons?

Because they are viewed as one of the most vulnerable groups. Their legal status is considered an anomaly — one that UN member states agreed to combat in the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Russia’s citizenship law explicitly states:

“The Russian Federation shall encourage stateless persons residing in the territory of the Russian Federation to acquire Russian Federation citizenship.”

Russia also has a special citizenship process for certain categories of stateless persons. In particular, it applies to citizens of the former USSR living in Russia, as well as their children; citizens of the former USSR living in other former Soviet republics; and those who were erroneously issued Russian passports before January 1, 2010. Other stateless persons must go through the same Russian citizenship process as foreign nationals.

Source: Russia has started issuing ‘non-citizen passports.’ What does that mean?

UAE’s Double-Standard on Citizenship Rights


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently announced a plan to extend citizenship opportunities to highly-educated, skilled, or wealthy foreign nationals and their families. Unfortunately, the country’s citizenship law still leaves out other groups, including children born to Emirati women and foreign fathers, and stateless people.

Increasing pathways to citizenship is good investment for a country whose population consists of nearly 90 percent foreign nationals, most of whom are part of the UAE’s low-paid workforce. However, the government’s new citizenship mechanism is designed to attract an elite set of foreign nationals. It allows for UAE officials to nominate foreign nationals for citizenship using criteria mostly related to academic, entrepreneurial, or financial status.

People in the UAE have taken to social media to pointpoint out the glaring hypocrisy of the new plan and demandcitizenship for all children of Emirati mothers.

Emirati women continue to face discrimination in passing nationality to their children compared to Emirati men. The UAE’s nationality law provides that children of Emirati men are automatically entitled to UAE citizenship; however, children born to Emirati mothers and foreign fathers are not.

Emirati mothers can apply for citizenship for their children provided their child has lived in the UAE for six years. However, according to some mothers, the application process can be confusing and it can sometimes take yearsto receive a response. When the child turns 18, they can apply themselves. But even then, they can wait years with no answer.

Others on social media have raised the plight of the country’s bidun (stateless) population, who, without UAE citizenship, face serious obstacles to accessing health care, employment, and university scholarships. Children of stateless couples have no path to citizenship, regardless of how long their parents have lived in the UAE. Many bidun individuals in the UAE trace their origins to nomadic communities  or immigrants living there before the country was formed in 1971, and who failed to register for nationality at the time.

The UAE is free to attract foreign investment into the country by offering the prospect of Emirati citizenship, but it should also end gross discrimination regarding citizenship for children of Emirati women and stateless groups. It is time to recognize them as Emirati nationals on an equal basis.

Source: UAE’s Double-Standard on Citizenship Rights

The controversial plan to give Kuwait’s stateless people citizenship of a tiny, poor African island – The Washington Post

Another illustration of some of the unsavoury aspects of Gulf countries:

Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros archipelago covers about 640 square miles, roughly half the size of Rhode Island. Fewer than a million people live on the islands, made up of a variety of ethnicities that reflect the nation’s location at a historical crossroads.

But if a new plan gets the go-ahead, Comoros may gain significantly more citizens — by offering thousands, if not many more, of stateless people from Kuwait “economic citizenship.”

And many experts are not so sure this is a good thing.

These stateless people are mostly from Kuwait’s Bidun population, which numbers about 100,000. Almost by definition — their name comes from the Arabic phrase “bidun jinsiya” or “without nationality” — they do not have citizenship and are considered illegal immigrants. Some are the descendants of nomadic tribes who never asked for citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961. Others are Arabs who joined the Kuwaiti army in the 1970s and ’80s but never gained citizenship. Others have been refused citizenship for political reasons.

The Bidun form a sizable minority in Kuwait, where the total citizenship is about 1.5 million. They are often disenfranchised, having long been refused the generous state benefits that Kuwait awards to its citizens. Kuwait, perhaps fearful of what an angry Bidun minority may do, offered some limited reforms in 2011: allowing Biduns to claim health care and education, for example, and register their births, marriages and deaths. But Human Rights Watch noted at the time, many Biduns complained that bureaucratic processes meant it was difficult to get these benefits. And there remained no path to citizenship.

The government announced this would change in 2014 — but there was a catch. The citizenship on offer wasn’t going to be Kuwaiti. Instead, Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarah Al-Sabah, assistant undersecretary for citizenship and passports affairs in Kuwait’s Interior Ministry, revealed in an interview that the government was negotiating with a foreign country that would be willing to offer the Biduns citizenship in exchange for economic benefits. Later that year, the government confirmed Comoros was the country in question, although no officials from Comoros commented.

It was only this week that Comoros finally ended speculation and confirmed that it was willing to accept a deal. “Yes, it is something we are ready to do if officially requested by the Kuwaiti government,” Comorian External Affairs Minister Abdul Karim Mohammad, on a visit to Kuwait, told a Kuwaiti newspaper. Although the details have not been announced, it looks as if the plan is gathering steam.

Why would someone living in Kuwait want citizenship of a small island off the coast of Mozambique? There are some cultural links here — Comoros is largely Sunni Muslim, and it is a member of the Arab League — but the deal largely comes down to economic factors. Kuwait, bolstered by its oil industry, has a gross domestic product per capita of $43,500. Despite its idyllic natural beauty, Comoros’ GDP per capita is just more than $810; about 18 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. The country’s small economy has been strongly hindered by political instability. Since gaining independence from France in 1975, there have been more than 20 coups and secession attempts for which it gained an unfortunate nickname the “coup-coup islands.”

Source: The controversial plan to give Kuwait’s stateless people citizenship of a tiny, poor African island – The Washington Post

ICYMI: Stateless Prince George man one step closer to citizenship

No longer falling through the cracks:

Qia Gunster is one step closer to being Canadian.

The 20-year-old Prince George man has lived in B.C. since he was a baby, but has never been recognized by his country.

As a “stateless person,” Gunster has been unable to get government identification, which means he couldn’t legally work, drive a car or travel.

But this week, Citizenship and Immigration Canada granted Gunster permanent resident status and he will finally be able to get a driver’s licence. He will also be able to get a social insurance number, so he can work and pay taxes.

He won’t be able to apply for Canadian citizenship for another four years.

“It’s pretty awesome — my whole outlook on the future has changed,” Gunster said Thursday.

“It makes everything easier.”

Gunster was born in Arizona, but his mother didn’t register his birth and when he was 18 months old, she crossed the border into B.C. with him. She left her baby in McBride, east of Prince George, where he was raised by a friend of a friend.

Being without ID wasn’t a significant problem until he finished high school. With help from a large circle of supporters, Gunster was able to earn a living. He is partway through his apprenticeship as an electrician and has found employers willing to pay in cash.

But Gunster still faced many limitations. He needed a birth certificate even to begin the process of applying to the federal government for citizenship.

The school principal got involved, and his adoptive families tried to help. Even the local MP contacted Arizona government officials in an attempt to get Gunster a birth certificate.

Despite stacks of paperwork, and a DNA test proving he is the son of an Arizona resident, the state has refused to issue the document.

Late last year, Michelle Quigg, a lawyer with North Vancouver-based Access Pro Bono, got involved with Qia’s case. She succeeded in getting Gunster permanent residency status, but she intends to press the government to grant him citizenship sooner under a section of the Immigration Act that allows it for “exceptional circumstances.”

Gunster, meanwhile, is making plans. He is going to get his driver’s licence and apply for jobs as an electrical apprentice at any company who’s hiring. He can go to a bar and no longer worry about being asked to prove his age. He can apply for a credit card.

“When you’re stateless, the options are so limited — you can’t work unless you know the right people,” he said.

“Basically I was stuck in a black hole that I couldn’t get out of, and now I have a world of opportunities.”

China’s ‘hidden generation’: plea to give citizenship to stateless children of trafficked North Koreans | South China Morning Post


Campaigners have urged Beijing to give citizenship to a “hidden generation” of stateless children born to trafficked North Korean women forced into marriage or prostitution in China.

They said an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 children born to North Korean women in China have no nationality and therefore cannot access education, health care and basic rights that most people take for granted.

If their mothers are deported, they are often abandoned by their Chinese fathers, leaving them effectively orphaned, according to the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea.

Thousands of North Koreans have fled hunger and oppression in the secretive state since a famine in the mid-1990s. Many are in hiding in neighbouring China, which considers them illegal migrants.

The plight of their children is outlined in a report by the rights group co-authored by Yong Joon Park, a teenager now living in Britain who grew up stateless in China.

They treated him badly. His life was worse than the starving children in North Korea. His mother, Jihyun Park, said traffickers sold her as a wife to a poor Chinese farmer after she fled North Korea in 1998.

When their son was five in 2004 she was reported to the authorities and deported back to North Korea.

There she was sent to a labour camp where she endured “horrific conditions” and prisoners were “worked harder than animals”.

“All I could think of was seeing my son again,” said Park, who eventually managed to escape and return to China.

She found her son, but barely recognised him. His skin was filthy and flaking, and when he was hungry he was sent outside to pick up grains of rice from the ground.

“They treated him badly. His life was worse than the starving children in North Korea,” she said. “The Chinese government does not give children like my son a nationality so they cannot go to school.”

She and her son managed to cross the Chinese border into Mongolia and later moved to Britain and were accepted as refugees.

“When my son arrived in the UK he was nine. It was the first time he had a nationality and the first time he went to school.”

Now 16, he scored straight As in his exams this year and is hoping to go to university to become a lawyer.

Source: China’s ‘hidden generation’: plea to give citizenship to stateless children of trafficked North Koreans | South China Morning Post