THE GAMBIA RATIFIES THE CONVENTION ON STATELESS PERSONS THE LAW ON CITIZENSHIP BREEDS STATELESS PERSONS

The convention on stateless persons does provide minimum standards of treatment requiring states to grant equal rights to them as enjoyed by their citizens in terms of freedom of association and movement and right to residence, identity papers, travel documents, education and employment.

The fact of the matter is that the 1970 Constitution and the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia combine both birth and inheritance to determine citizenship. No effort has been made to create an atmosphere conducive to go through the process of naturalisation. It therefore becomes easier to acquire national identity documents than to naturalise as a citizen of the country.

Hence many people who were born before 1965 of parents who were neither born nor naturalised as Gambians end up having children of similar status. The same goes for children born after 1965 of parents who are not citizens by birth or naturalisation.

Hence ratification of the convention is not enough. Those who could have naturalised but because of ignorance had not taken steps to do so should be provided with the opportunity to do so. Birth should also be the basis of citizenship. This should address the problem of statelessness in the Gambia.

Once an Act comes into being to protect stateless persons those concerned should form a lobby group to promote constitutional amendments to reduce the problem of statelessness.