The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Map: Every 10 minutes, a stateless baby is born

According to the United Nations, there are roughly "10 million people worldwide who lack a nationality and the human rights protections that go with it." This month, the U.N.'s refugee agency, UNHCR, signaled its desire to end the problem of statelessness within the next 10 years. But as the map below shows, it's a very big problem.

The reasons for why someone is born stateless are legion. Wars and unrest drive tens of thousands into a refugee limbo away from their homes (see the crises in Syria and Iraq); administrative rules and bureaucracy make access to citizenship papers for some communities very difficult (as is the case in corners of the post-Soviet world); ethnic or religious discrimination in some countries lead to tens of thousands being wholly denied citizenship rights (as is the case for the Rohingya Muslims of Burma).

The agency estimates that a third of all stateless people are children and that a child is born stateless every 10 minutes. The parents, lacking their own documentation, are unable to register the child -- making these infants "instant non-persons," as a UNHCR report puts it. They suffer immediately from lack of access to immunizations and grow up on the margins of societies, making them vulnerable to all sorts of abuse.

The map above is a reflection of UNHCR's compiled data up to 2013. The U.N. agency recognizes its data incomplete; in some cases, it has withheld information to protect the anonymity of "persons of concern."

The U.N. agency is campaigning for more governments to join on to existing U.N. conventions regarding the rights of stateless peoples and is also pushing for more pressure on governments to reform their citizenship laws. In the past decade alone, the U.N. says, 4 million stateless people have acquired a nationality, or had it confirmed, as the result of locals laws being passed or policies changing.