By Bida Elly David
Members of the Revitalized Transitional Legislative Assembly on Tuesday ratified the International Convention on Statelessness permitting accommodation of stateless persons from Countries across the world.
The 1954-1961 United Nations International Convention on statelessness was aimed to address and reduce challenges faced by citizens who have rejected status in their Countries of origin.
The treaty establishes a framework for the international protection of stateless persons.
According to the treaty, stateless persons who are refugees are covered by laws related to their status as established in the 1951 treaty.
Joseph Mal Wal, Chairperson of Foreign Affairs Committee in the parliament said the treaty enhances stateless persons from Countries across the world to have the same rights as citizens with respect to freedom of religion and education.
Joseph stated that the convention pronounces justice in the International Court against member Countries that shall dispute the treaty.
“Any dispute between parties to this convention relating to its interpretation or applications which cannot be settled by other means shall be referred to the (IC) on request of any one of the parties to the dispute,” Joseph quoted.
The treaty further limits the accommodation of stateless persons by Countries on the condition of not being victims of crimes of any kind.
Mal noted that the convention complied with the provisions of the laws of South Sudan since the Country acceded to the 1951 treaty guaranteeing rights to settle as refugees.
Lawmakers, after listening to the report observed that some of the recommendations from the report stand against the Constitution of South Sudan.
Peter Mabior Ring, a lawmaker representing Northern Bahr El Ghazal State said there could be risk as South Sudan adopts the treaty while its people sleep under trees.
“First we have internally displaced persons in South Sudan who are being protected from their own government,” he said.
He said it would be a failure if South Sudan gave priority to asylum from other Countries while their citizens starved.
“Some people (South Sudanese) have no land because the land has been occupied by people and the government is not able to deal with it,” Peter said.
He reiterated that there are many South Sudanese with the status of statelessness in other Countries urging the authorities to be keen before adopting the report.
“If we want to solve issues of refugees or stateless persons from other Countries, let us first solve our internal issues. We deal with our IDPs,” he said.
Juol Nyomngek Daniel supported the report on the United Nations convention saying that it will mitigate nationality-related problems.
He said the convention has to be adopted based on the fact that South Sudan has refugee laws in line with the convention.
“The convention will solve issues concerning the discrimination of minorities like women being discriminated, our laws say nobody should be discriminated against,” he said.
He said that the convention would rescue citizens rejected by their government due to discrimination in the areas of gender, religion, and color among others.
Meanwhile, Joseph Kiju Romek, an MP from Kajo-Keji County said adopting the report must be analytical to avoid entry of criminals in the name of statelessness.
“We need to be very cautious because we have got some people whose nationality is being revoked because of their activities, some are involved in terrorism activities,’’ Rombek said.
He said that the Country will be in danger of external threats adding that some asylum seekers are spies, not vulnerable citizens.
Another lawmaker, Sophia Pal Gai suggested the adoption of the convention on the fact of being a member Country of the United Nations with refugees hosted in other Countries.
Sophia said South Sudan is one of the affected countries with so many citizens deprived of their rights saying the treaty is a remedy to the vulnerable.
“It is indeed true that being a stateless person in other Countries has a lot of challenges it is even worse with a situation of a child who does not have what it takes to be protected,’’ she said
Despite the debate, the parliament reached a consensus and ratified the convention.
According to UNHCR, there are an estimated 1.6 million stateless people in South Sudan as of June 2023.