Members of several Latin American parliaments met Thursday in Quito, Ecuador, to determine which actions to take to end statelessness — a condition that affects at least 10 million people globally — as well as the global refugee and migration crisis.
Organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and the National Assembly of Ecuador, a representative from the former Maria Clara Martin highlighted the progress Latin America has made in the field of refugee protection.
"With the situation of refugees in the world, Latin America today gives us hope. The treatment of refugees here is at this time an example for the world," said Martin.
"Latin America is the region where there is less statelessness, and this is a product of the constitutions and laws that parliaments approved to prevent that from happening — mostly, indicating that every person born on the soil of a country has the right to be a citizen of that country."
The event had the participation of Jean Maha Mamo, a 27-year-old born in Lebanon to Syrian parents, who due to laws prohibiting marriage between Christians and Muslims does not have a nationality.
"No one knows what it is to be stateless," said Mamo. "We deserve to belong to a country, to belong somewhere. I want to ask you, legislators, to facilitate naturalization processes that make it easier for us to exist."
Attendees also discussed refugee protection law and procedures for determining statelessness including the Human Mobility Act, currently being discussed in the International Relations Committee of the Ecuadorian National Assembly, as well as the problem of delayed birth registration and the granting of nationality documentation.
"Among the challenges proposed are to prevent and resolve statelessness, to ensure that no child is born stateless, to eliminate gender discrimination in nationality laws, to grant protection to stateless migrants and to promote adherence to the United Nations Convention on this issue," stated the press release published after the meeting.
During her speech, Gabriela Rivadeneira, president of the National Assembly of Ecuador, highlighted the country's efforts in human mobility saying that "in Ecuador, there are no illegal people. People in mobility, including stateless people, should have their rights protected."
According to the UNHCR, statelessness affects an average of 10 million people worldwide and has a great impact on their living conditions.