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What does United Nations say about citizenship rights?

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The recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been causing massive protests across the country. The Act grants citizenship status of persecuted minorities (excluding Muslims) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Many termed the new law ‘discriminatory’ and a violation of Article 14, which ensures equality before law regardless of gender, race or religion.

Amid protests against the CAA, the United Nations (UN) also had recently raised concerns over the “discriminatory nature” of the CAA.

What does UN say about nationality?

The United Nations consider right to nationality as a fundamental human right. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 24 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that:

“Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and State. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.”

The UN also imposes restrictions on the power of a State to determine its citizens. According to the UN, the “right of States to decide who their nationals are NOT absolute and, in particular, States must comply with their human rights obligations concerning the granting and loss of nationality.”

The 1961 UN Convention and the 1997 European Convention on Nationality also put a curb on the power of the States to remove the citizenship status of a person.

Rights of the stateless

The 1954 UN Convention puts emphasis on the treatment given to the stateless. The stateless people have a right to identity, travel documents, administrative assistance, right to education, employment and housing. They shouldn’t be normally detained or expelled except on compelling reasons of national security or public order.

However, the UN mentions that no matter how extensive the rights granted to a stateless person may be, they are not the equivalent of acquiring citizenship.

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