South Africa: Reflections of a Wayward Boy - Stateless (And Hatless) in Tangier


I once had a brief experience of what it is like to be a 'stateless person' -- someone granted asylum or given some sort of permission to stay in a country of exile without the right to reside anywhere else. I'll never forget it, but my exile, including the period of being stateless, meant I was still able to travel, and my experience was one of relative ease, comfort and enlightenment of a sort. The world today, especially for millions of stateless men, women and children, is vastly different.

Fewer than four months after arriving in London clutching a slip of paper signed by the British high commissioner in Lusaka granting me entry to Britain, I got a job, was admitted to university, and, along with several other exiles, landed a handsome United Nations fellowship. This provided for a decent enough living and also paid the tuition fees.

However, I was effectively stateless and therefore without a passport and unable to travel freely. Other exiles were in a similar position and some, like me, had to settle for a Home Office folder. It contained personal details, photo affixed, and noted, in my case that nationality was "South African N/D" (not...

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