31 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011 Last revised: 6 Apr 2012

Date Written: November 16, 2011


Traveling to Southeast Asia to research human trafficking, Jay Milbrandt encountered scores of “stateless” women and children - citizens of no country and wanted by no country. By operation of law, they were denied citizenship. Left stateless, these individuals quickly became vulnerable to human rights abuses, exploitation, and trafficking.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 12 million people worldwide are victims of statelessness. From South East Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, denial of citizenship takes form as both a failure of law and tool for oppression.

Fortunately, this problem was solved before. After World War I, Europe found itself with an influx of stateless people from dissolved nations. In response, the League of Nations created the Nansen Passport to document and provide basic rights to those who were stateless. The Nansen Passport was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and considered a success attributed to the League of Nations. This solution is equally relevant today.

This article introduces the issue statelessness, sketches its scale, and recommends a viable solution. This solution not only addresses statelessness, but also presents a key answer to the root cause of larger human rights abuses.

Keywords: stateless, statelessness, immigration, citizenship, identification, Thailand, Burma

JEL Classification: K33, O19

Suggested Citation

Milbrandt, Jay, Stateless (November 16, 2011). Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law (JICL), Vol. 20, No. 1, Fall 2011, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012/6, Available at SSRN:

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