Washington International Law Journal


Alec Paxton


Statelessness is a problem that affects 12 million people worldwide, with severe social, economic, and political consequences. This problem is particularly acute in Southeast Asia. Over the last sixty years, Southeast Asian states have attempted to reduce existing stateless populations through nationalization. These attempts have been met with varying degrees of success. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees and other non-governmental organizations have recently started to evaluate the outcome of these legislative attempts to reduce statelessness. These ad hoc evaluations provide valuable lessons for those who are drafting legislation to reduce existing stateless populations as well as legal scholars evaluating their efforts. Drawing from the experience of Southeast Asian states, this comment gives specific recommendations for evaluating and informing legislation designed to reduce existing stateless populations in Southeast Asian states through nationalization. This comment suggests that legislation should relax and tailor documentation requirements for naturalization, reduce fees and administrative burdens to naturalization, reduce residency requirements, unconditionally naturalize those born in the state, and waive language and knowledge requirements. Legislation aimed at reducing statelessness should incorporate principles of nondiscrimination and safeguards against arbitrary denials of citizenship. Additionally, states should engage in awareness campaigns that target stateless persons after enacting the legislation.

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