Melanie Khanna, head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Chief of UNHCR, gave a statement during The World Conference on Statelessness which was held at The Hague, Netherlands, on 26 -28 June 2019, that the Omani government do not recognise the persons of Omani origin who are stranded in East Africa. Replying to a question which was addressed to her by Habiba Al-Hinai, the OAHR executive director, Khanna said:
“ That is something that seems to come up almost every six months in my ten years on a job which doesn’t go back to the year 2008. They’ve been multiple times that this is come to my attention and where our offices are covering the middle east and north Africa region have rise the issue again and again with the government of Oman, and the answer is pretty clear; The government of Oman no longer considers this population, of Omani descent in Burundi, to be citizen of Oman. When that happens, we always say the 1954 definition of stateless persons, a persons who is not recognised by any state under the operation of its law, is a mixed question of law. In fact we have to look at the law in practice, where government repeatedly says this population of such and such descent are not citizens of our country, that is pretty definitive evidence that they don’t consider the population to be citizens. And there is nothing the UNHCR can do, to compel the government of Oman, to consider this population Omani citizens. Burundi has offered citizenship to people who’ve been on the territory, in some cases, for more than a single generation. People who were born on the territory. Have lived there their entire lives, and my understanding is that our offices in the region are encouraging the community to consider availing itself of that offer”.
This unfortunate news comes while the government of Burundi have decided by next year, to deport all persons reside in its territory without legal documents. While the Burundian government will detain all stateless persons, including Omanis who are stranded in Burundi. OAHR launched the “ Right to Return” campaign, which coincided with its participation in the World Conference on Statelessness. The campaign was launched to help thousands of Omanis who are stranded in East Africa, especially those who are in a critical situation in Burundi.
Al-Hinai, also addressed on the second day of the conference her speech in the panel “ Getting to women’s equal citizenship: what hurts & what works?” Which was organised by Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and was Moderated by Her Excellency, Annika Markovic, Sweden’s Ambassador to the Netherlands.