Farm workers of foreign descent vulnerable to statelessness

By Kenneth Matimaire

Senate deputy president, Retired Lieutenant General Mike Nyambuya said farm workers of foreign descent working within the country are vulnerable to the global challenge of statelessness.

Senator Nyambuya made the remarks in his keynote address during the Dialogue with Parliamentarians on Nationality and Statelessness in Zimbabwe held in Vumba recently.

His remarks came at the backdrop of a rising global challenge as an estimated 10 million people are considered stateless by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

Nyambuya said Zimbabwe is not spared from the crisis though there is currently no country data to ascertain the challenge.

“As a country, we are not spared from this challenge of statelessness. There is first of all, an urgent need to avail country data on Statelessness because many Zimbabweans believe there are no stateless people in the country,” he said.

“Farm workers of foreign origin represent one of the most vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe. An estimated 30 percent of two million farm workers and their families are believed to be of foreign descent. Many were born in Zimbabwe but lack birth certificates or national identity cards,” Sen Nyambuya added.

He said the crisis has been exacerbated by the fact that most of the foreign farm workers have lost ties with their countries of origin.

Sen Nyambuya said of this cluster, women and children are more vulnerable to the growing crisis.

“They have also lost ties with their country of origin and have no place to return to when evicted from the farms. There is also need to look at the issue of statelessness with a gender lens as it impacts more on women (and children). Women experience Statelessness physically due to human trafficking, xenophobia, civil unrests and economic challenges, which have caused migration to other countries where people then seek refugee status,” he said.

Sen Nyambuya challenged policymakers to formulate legislation that addresses the causes and effects of statelessness.

He said the laws must explicitly address complex cases of orphaned children, refugees’ status and dual citizenship among other technicalities that fuel statelessness.

“As MPs we need to enact laws that address the different challenges which may cause statelessness. For example, some children are born of parents where the father and mother are from different countries, and therefore, there is confusion on which country they belong to. In addition, children born of refugees encounter problems in that sometimes they are granted temporary birth registration, which does not state their nationality. Another challenge is that people with dual citizenship are also asked to renounce their nationality without acquiring another nationality.

“Furthermore, children left without parents are also vulnerable to becoming stateless,” said Sen Nyambuya.

Statelessness is caused by excessive requirements for documentation, migratory workers, broken family ties, unaccompanied minors, and situations of discrimination of populations, for example women.

The consequences of statelessness are poverty, failure to get identity documents, failure to get education, food insecurity, lack of housing and formal employment, discrimination, exploitation and other human rights issues.

UNHCR acting country representative, Shana Kaninda reiterated the importance of Parliamentarians to champion rights of stateless people.

“Parliaments as the custodians of human rights, accordingly hold a fundamental role to play in ending Statelessness through legislative reform and in the accession and domestication of international instruments,” said Kaninda.

He further implored Parliamentarians for having contributed strongly to the unprecedented progress achieved in the response to statelessness since the launch of the #IBelong campaign in 2014.

The campaign seeks to end statelessness by 2024.

Kaninda said Zimbabwean Parliamentarians have been fully supportive and managed to come up with four resolutions to combat Statelessness.

Zimbabwe acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the status of Stateless persons but is yet to ratify the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness.