STATE OF LIMBO

What do physicist Albert Einstein, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have in common? All were ‘stateless’ for some part of their lives. On top of the 12 million refugees in the world today – people seeking refuge in one state from persecution in another – the UN estimates there are a similar number of people with no state at all.

‘Statelessness’ can have many causes, from war to ethnic discrimination to problematic laws. Stateless people are typically prevented from participating fully in society – lacking access to rights and services that the rest of us take for granted. Alongside practical disadvantages they also often experience a profound sense of psychological alienation.

In this programme we go to Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific to hear the stories of stateless people – what’s it like to be citizens of nowhere? And as the UN celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, we ask what governments and others are doing to help them find a way out of their ‘state of limbo’.