MANILA -- After years of living in legal limbo, a first group of 664 people in the southern Philippines finally got their citizenship confirmed, an important step in the global campaign to end statelessness by 2024.

Of the 664 from the southern parts including Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, General Santos City and Davao City, 536 were confirmed to be Filipinos and 128 were confirmed to be Indonesians.

The event took place last Monday at the Municipal Hall of Glan, Sarangani as the governments of the Philippines and Indonesia, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), continue efforts to assist people who are at risk of being stateless.

The mission is spearheaded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Philippine government and the Indonesian Consulate for the Indonesian government.

Representatives from the Bureau of Immigration and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) are also part of the process.

Gina Maramag, external affairs officer of UNHCR in a text message said, citizenship is established and confirmed “Through a thorough process of determining on the basis of place of birth, descent, residence and marriage, and existing civil documents.”

Stateless people and those at risk of statelessness are sometimes not registered in either country and have lost their connection with their former countries of origin. Some live in remote areas or have limited access to information about their rights and nationality procedures.

To address this issue, a confirmation and registration of persons of Indonesian descent (PIDs) was launched in 2014.

The exercise registered more than 8,745 PIDs in the seven provinces and two cities.

The event saw the first group of about 664 PIDs getting their citizenship confirmed by either Indonesia or the Philippines and receiving the appropriate identity documents.

“In coordination with the Philippine and Indonesian Government, the pilot projects to assist those at risk of being stateless was able to register and determine their citizenship whether they are Filipino or Indonesian,” Maramag texted.

“Each case of the PIDs were studied and examined by experts from both government and recommended solutions are given.”

UNHCR commends the Government of the Philippines for ongoing efforts to consider acceding to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality by establishing safeguards to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life.

Without nationality, they cannot enjoy their human rights, including the right to freedom of movement, to formal education, to access social services and to own property.

They have often have poor access to basic services like affordable healthcare and higher education.

This landmark exercise marks an important step in the global #IBelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024. (PR)