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Without citizenship from any country, more than 10 million people worldwide are unable to enjoy the rights, freedoms, and protections that citizens of a state take for granted. They are stateless and formally belong nowhere. The stateless typically face insurmountable obstacles in their ability to be self-determining agents and are vulnerable to a variety of harms, including neglect and exploitation. Through an analysis of statelessness in the Caribbean, Kristy A. Belton argues for the reconceptualization of statelessness as a form of forced displacement.
Belton argues that the stateless--those who are displaced in place--suffer similarly to those who are forcibly displaced, but unlike the latter, they are born and reside within the country that denies or deprives them of citizenship. She explains how the peculiar form of displacement experienced by the stateless often occurs under nonconflict and noncrisis conditions and within democratic regimes, all of which serve to make such people's plight less visible and consequently heightens their vulnerability. Statelessness in the Caribbean addresses a number of current issues including belonging, migration and forced displacement, the treatment and inclusion of the ethnic and racial "other," the application of international human rights law and doctrine to local contexts, and the ability of individuals to be self-determining agents who create the conditions of their own making.
Belton concludes that statelessness needs to be addressed as a matter of global distributive justice. Citizenship is not only a necessary good for an individual in a world carved into states but is also a human right and a status that should not be determined by states alone. In order to resolve their predicament, the stateless must have the right to choose to belong to the communities of their birth.
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