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Madagascar

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. Authorities cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian agencies in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not include provisions for granting asylum or refugee status, but the government provides protection to refugees. Authorities cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting the small number of refugees in the country.

STATELESS PERSONS

A complicated system of citizenship laws and procedures resulted in a large number of stateless persons in the minority Muslim community, many belonging to families living in the country for generations. Muslim leaders estimated the laws affected as many as 5 percent of the approximately two million Muslims in the country.

Birth to a citizen parent transmits citizenship. Birth in the country does not automatically result in citizenship. Children born to a citizen mother and noncitizen father must declare their desire for citizenship by age 18 or risk losing eligibility for citizenship; the same applies to children born out of wedlock. Mothers confer nationality on children born in wedlock only if the father is stateless or of unknown nationality. Some members of the Karana community of Indo-Pakistani origin–who failed to register for Indian, Malagasy, or French citizenship following India’s independence in 1947 and Madagascar’s independence in 1960–were no longer eligible for any of the three citizenships; this circumstance applied to their descendants as well. Members of the wider Muslim community suggested a Muslim-sounding name alone could delay one’s citizenship application indefinitely. All stateless persons may apply for a foreign resident card, which precludes the right to vote, own property, or apply for a passport, thus limiting international travel. Stateless women may obtain nationality by marrying a Malagasy citizen and may request citizenship before the wedding date. Stateless persons had difficulty accessing education and health care, could not get jobs or buy land, and lived in fear of arrest.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future