“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

Stateless Voices

28 November 2014 | Urs Spindler, Arne Schulz, Moises Mendoza and Shaminder Dulai

There are around 600.000 stateless people in Europe and the US. Without protection from a government, they are often denied basic rights. The project Stateless Voices tells some of their stories.

 Maria from Poland will soon take her first trip abroad – she waited for it for almost 18 years. The last vacation of Mikhail turned into a nightmare: He was trapped on a tiny island for several months. He may never be able to regularize his stay in the US, he is stuck in legal limbo. Same goes for Said in Germany – although there might be a way out for him.

 Maria is a schoolgirl from Poland, Mikhail works in a café in the US, Said had to leave Syria and is now living in Germany. They have different biographies, a different background, a different life – but still, they share a common problem that links their stories together: They all experienced statelessness.

 For the last few months, we - a team of four journalists based in the United States and Germany - have been working on a project about statelessness in the European Union and the United States.

 We’ve traveled to Athens, to Berlin, to Warsaw and Los Angeles looking for the stories of stateless people in the West. While the United States and the European Union have been two of the loudest voices calling for the abolition of statelessness, they have allowed it to fester in their own backyard. More than 600.000 stateless people are living in these “Western” countries. That’s what this project is about: Highlighting the stories of stateless people people in the United States and Europe.

 Statelessvoices.com aims to tell the stories of just a few of these people through a multimedia website. We invite you to take a look at a beta-version of our work.

 This includes the story of Maria, a Polish girl who because of a mix-up at birth was stateless for 17 years. We’re also looking at Said, a man of Palestinian descent who came from Syria to Germany for medical treatment and found himself stuck because of his stateless status. Other stories include Mikhail, a stateless man who got stuck on an isolated Pacific island during a vacation and the odd stories of American Samoan “nationals” who have recently discovered that due to a quirk in U.S. law, they aren’t really citizens of the United States – or anywhere at all.

 This is just the start of what we hope will be a long-term project. Over the next few months we’ll be adding more stories. And we hope you’ll visit statelessvoices.com, subscribe to our newsletter and send us your feedback.

 Help give stateless people a voice.

 We want to thank the many entities who have helped us to start to make this project a reality. That includes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Refugees International and the European Network on Statelessness along with the generous sponsorship of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the International Center for Journalists, the International Journalists’ Programs and Vocer Media Lab.

 

PICTURE: Arne Schulz and Urs Spindler in Poland, together with Maria, her father and friends. On the right: camera man Tom Rölecke

© Röler 

 VIDEO: Stateless Voices: The Unwanted

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