Tue 01/08/2023 - 09:00

At the lake, on the meadows and in the gardens, the grill is fired up. Friends and families toast each other. The national anthem and Swiss traditional music are blaring from the loudspeakers, and sometimes musicians in classical Edelweiss shirts are playing their accordions live. The mood is relaxed, everyone is off duty. Here and there, politicians and other celebrities give proud speeches about what Switzerland has done well so far and what it could do even better in the future. At night, fireworks rise into the sky, whistling and banging are heard. Children light up the streets with their colorful lanterns. 

Ever since I can remember, 1st of August has always been a day of joy for me. The day when Switzerland is celebrated. Why shouldn't I be happy about that? I have a Swiss passport, I grew up here, just like my parents and grandparents. Switzerland has always been good to me, has looked after me. Even abroad: My Swiss insurance paid for my hospital stay in Cambodia and my lost cell phone in Brazil. Switzerland is my country, and I can rely on it. A good feeling. 

A feeling that millions of people in this world do not know. Because officially no state is responsible for them. They have no passport, no papers, often not even a birth certificate, and thus no proof whatsoever that they belong to a particular nationality.

Statelessness excludes people from living a normal life everywhere around the globe.  © UNHCR/Mark Henley
Statelessness excludes people from living a normal life everywhere around the globe. © UNHCR/Mark Henley

Stateless persons are invisible. 

This means that in various countries they have no rights whatsoever. They are often not allowed to go to school. They can't see a doctor when they are sick. They can´t travel, take out insurance, rent an apartment or sign an employment contract. This automatically pushes them into illegality. And even worse, no state protects them. This means that stateless people are often exposed to the arbitrariness of others, are expelled and mistreated.  

What must it feel like for a person who lives in a country that does not recognize them? For which they don´t really exist? And to know that their own government won´t provide for their safety?  

It is not acceptable to be stateless. Every person in this world has the right to be recognized by at least one government and to have all the necessary papers to do so. This is the only way they can live a dignified life,

says Anja Klug, Head of Office at UNHCR Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, advocates for stateless persons. With the #IBelong Campaign, UNHCR has been drawing attention to the fate of stateless people around the globe for almost 10 years. And you can actively help  to ensure that statelessness soon becomes a thing of the past.  

The example of Valentin from Northern Macedonia shows that UNHCR can make a difference. For 12 years, he fought to get out of illegality. UNHCR supported him, and now the young man can look to the future with optimism. And maybe now he is also happy when he can sing the anthem and set off fireworks for his country.  

I wish EVERYONE a happy 1st of August! 

Miriam Knecht, Public & Media Relations Coordinator, Switzerland for UNHCR