By Emma Batha
THE HAGUE – When Ekaterina’s father was dying she could not visit him in Uzbekistan because she did not have a passport – so she tried to get herself deported.
But as a stateless person living in the United States, she could not even do that.
Ekaterina is among hundreds of thousands of ex-Soviet citizens who have not been able to acquire the nationality of any of the successor states since the break-up of the bloc.
Some like Ekaterina, who was abroad when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, have been stranded in limbo ever since.
Ekaterina told her story in a film shown at a global conference on statelessness in The Hague that ends on Friday.
Stateless people do not have passports so were unable to attend in person to tell their stories, although delegates included a number of formerly stateless people.
An empty chair was placed next to panelists speaking at the conference to symbolize the people who could not be there.
Ekaterina is a member of United Stateless, a campaign group comprising stateless people from various backgrounds living in the United States.
There are an estimated 10 to 15 million stateless people globally who are not recognized as a citizen of any country. There are no statistics on the number in the United States.
People end up stateless for a host of complex historical, social and legal reasons – including migration, flawed citizenship laws and ethnic discrimination.
Sometimes called “nowhere people” or “legal ghosts”, they are often deprived of basic rights and vulnerable to exploitation.