On 15 February 2019, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance published an Allegation Letter sent to both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Republic of Egypt concerning the intentional creation of two stateless individuals, Hatim Farajallah and Majid Farajallah. Both individuals, son and father respectively, are of Palestinian origin and came to Saudi Arabia via Egyptian travel documents.

Hatim Farajallah was born in Saudi Arabia in 1992 and was a holder of a valid residency visa in Saudi Arabia, as well as an Egyptian travel document. His father, Majid Farjallah, had travelled to Saudi Arabia and was able to sponsor his son’s residency through Egyptian travel documents he had obtained through his Palestinian refugee status. Both Majid and Hatim were residing in Saudi Arabia when their Egyptian documents expired in June of 2012. Two weeks later, their Saudi Arabian residency permits also expired due to Majid Farjallah’s inability to pay the high corporate taxes associated with an investor-class visa. As both individuals’ permits are now expired, they are no longer eligible to renew their residency permits in Saudi Arabia, nor are they allowed to travel back to Egypt. In order for either of the two men to renew their legal residency status in Saudi Arabia they need a valid document of citizenship from Egypt, something that Egypt will not grant unless they can demonstrate legal residency in Saudi Arabia.

This bureaucratic entrapment has rendered both individuals stateless. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) recognizes the vulnerability that comes with such a status, particularly in the Middle East, where rights are “sometimes predicated on inter-state reciprocity.” The inability of the Farjallahs to obtain direct documentation has forced both to “rarely leave their home for fear of being stopped and arrested by the police.” Consequently, both individuals now lack access to healthcare and are unable to travel.

The actions by both Egypt and Saudi Arabia violate a number of accepted tenets of international laws including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 15 which declares “all people are entitled to a nationality,” and the Conventions on the Rights of Women and of Children, which makes it clear that it is a violation of international law for states to render a person, whether female, male, adult, or child stateless. The Allegation Letter sent by Special Procedures urged both countries to take action to remedy the Farjallahs’ situation. Therefore, it is crucial that Egypt and Saudi Arabia act on the behalf of these two individuals and grant them immediate documents allowing them to travel, obtain employment, and seek basic healthcare.

Casey O’Hara is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB