Personal story: I have spent my entire life without identification documents 

In our new project “Beyond borders” we will be presenting stories of women living in Central Asia without a single document certifying their identity. How did it happen to them? What difficulties do they face? Is there any way to solve this problem? The first among many more will be Nadezhda Karaseva’s story. 

Asya Akimzhanova

December 30th, 2020

What does a term “stateless person” mean? Not many think about this topic in their everyday life: citizenship, the right to own property, to have education, medical care, freedom of movement – all these are considered to be an inseparable part of our everyday life, which as the air that we breathe should be afforded to every person on planet Earth. Imagine that there are people who live among us de facto, but de jure they do not. Simply at the account of the fact that they do not have any document certifying their identity. They have no documents at all.  

Apatrides are people who do not have any citizenship or a nationality and who often lack any evidence that would assert their belonging to any citizenship or nationality. 

The problem of statelessness is widespread in the world: in 2020 seventy-six states have reported total number of 4,2 million stateless persons. There are 7166 individuals officially recognized as stateless persons residing in Kazakhstan and they all were issued a stateless person document. However, according to the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (UNOHCR) true number of stateless persons could be three times higher and that number already comparable with number of citizens of a small country.

Nadezhda’s story 

Nadezhda Karaseva was born in Auliyekol village in Krasnoyarsk region of Russian Federation. After her parents separated she and her mother moved to Kazakhstan in 2001 to Kamyshlovo village where her grandmother lived and where they stayed for a while. Later, in 2013 they moved to a new a small house in Troyebratsky village, Uzunkol district of Kostanai region that her mother bought. Nadezhda has finished her 9th grade and enrolled to a Borovsk Vocational Training School to be trained as “power grid electrician”.

history of women, official document, complexities, stateless, no document

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“My mom moved to Kazakhstan with a USSR passport and ever since she tried to get new documents but got only rejection everywhere. Me and my sister had birth certificates from Russia and my brother had one issued in Kazakhstan – these documents sufficed for admission to school and college. We could not get ID issued by Kazakhstan authorities because our mother did not have her documents issued. The situation is a little complicated now because we reached full age and now have to get our documents separately from mom”.
The situation with Nadezhda’s documents was in stagnation until Mahabbat Akhmetbekova, the lawyer of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law took the case in her hands. The mother had contacted the Kostanai branch of the Bureau in 2005 after seeing a newspaper ad that the Bureau takes up cases of persons without citizenship. All these years she had a goal – to get a certificate confirming that neither herself nor her children were the citizens of Russian Federation. 

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“It turned out to be a very difficult procedure – laws of Russia and Kazakhstan interpret the issue differently. The situation occurred because long ago we left Russia in a rush and mother did not have time to cancel our residence registration. The only solution was to leave in a status of a stateless person so that she could at least get a residence permit. My paperwork is at the Embassy now and I am waiting on my citizenship being identified since I was born in Russian Federation”. 
In 2015 Nadezhda entered a common law marriage. In 2016 she gave birth to a baby boy and has graduated from college. 

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“Last year my mother has finally received her residence permit. As soon as she got her documents we all have sent our requests too but they were left unanswered due to pandemic. None of us have documents yet. My son is also unable to receive his birth certificate until I get my identification document.
The biggest difficulty which I face due to the absence of identification document is finding a job

I could not find a vacancy for my specialty and had to look for any job as long as it keept me busy. For a while I worked off-the-record as a waitress and a salesperson. Then I met my future husband and resigned. Now I am a housekeeper. I am a mother and I try to do my best at it. My family is now the most important thing for me in the whole white world”. 
Nadezhda is lucky – she never encountered any negative bias or assumptions from her friends and acquaintances. The colleagues have always been very supportive and only wished her to solve her ID related problems as soon as possible. 

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“The unpleasant moments happened in hospitals mostly. For example, when we went to issue an immunization passport I had to hear really uncomplimentary remarks questioning me as a mother because of my missing documents.”

To-date Nadezhda is expecting a second child and she again faces difficulties due to her statelessness which got aggravated during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“Also, because of pregnancy I have to do a variety of tests and I have to pay for them too since the hospital cannot register me due to absence of any identification documents. That is another problem for any stateless person.”

National legislation was amended in 2019 so that children born in Kazakhstan could receive birth certificate irrespective of their parents’ citizenship status. Nadezhda believes that now her situation can be resolved and her second child will definitely get birth certificate. 

Nadezhda Karaseva:

“I am glad that the law is on our side now. Most of all I want my child to be a citizen of Kazakhstan, I want my baby have the same life as other children have. I want him to go to kindergarten, school, finish school and never worry about the documents. I have spent my entire life without identification documents and it has always been stressful, worrisome and full of anticipation of the resolution. I cried every time I received refusal by mail because I was worried about my son going to school soon and being rejected. I am still worried and cannot relax. These worries are still haunting me.”

In 2014 the UN Refugee Agency (The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — UNHCR) launched a 10-year campaign #IBelong – all the efforts with the goal of ensuring that by 2024 all cases of statelessness were fully eradicated in the world. 

Since the launch of Global #IBelong campaign in Kazakhstan partners of UNHCR have detected more than 6000 stateless persons who were deprived of medical, social and legal assistance. In 2014 nearly 2000 persons received help from UNHCR and its partners in confirming or receiving citizenship, 10% of them were children whose birth was not registered due to their parents’ statelessness. The country has introduced amendments to the law enabling determination of stateless person’s status; strengthened collaboration between the Ministry of Interior’s Migration Service Committee and UNHCR partners in Kazakhstan allowed to roll-out a large-scale identification campaign aimed at identification and documenting of persons with undetermined nationality.

To get free legal aid stateless persons may apply to the following UNHCR partners in Kazakhstan:
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
“Sana Sezim” Legal Center of Women’s Initiatives 
Illustrations: Sokhail Amir Layan

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