The existence of statelessness can be viewed as the "most extreme violation" the international law, according to the president of German NGO, Bread for the World.

In comments made at a conference on the issue held in Berlin last week, Rev Dr Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, whose organisation is the development and relief agency of Protestant churches in Germany, said the 10 million people globally who are stateless are without rights and freedom.

“The existence of statelessness can be viewed as the most extreme violation of the international law,” she said. “In addition to violations of their right to a nationality, stateless persons are subject to several other human rights violations like lacking access to education, health facilities, courts, official labour markets, land rights, and political and social participation.”

She said that in extreme cases - such as that being faced by Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar - the property of those who are stateless can be destroyed and they can be forcibly expelled at any time.

“Governments, the humanitarian community, development actors as well as the [World Council of Churches] and ecumenical partners have to join efforts to address statelessness, to identify and overcome obstacles to birth registration and acquisition of nationality, to raise awareness among those who are vulnerable to become stateless and to become familiar with procedures."

Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, deputy general secretary of the WCC, told those at the conference that cases of statelessness tended to be discovered "in the context of other work related to refugees, migrants, human rights and discrimination".

“When you combine this with an increasing xenophobic backlash, we see even more urgency for churches to speak out for the inherent God-given human dignity of every human being.”

The conference heard that addressing the issue of birth registration - including the absence or loss of documentation - was a key issue in reducing the risk of statelessness and that baptismal and other church records could possibly be helpful in providing evidence in lieu of official birth documents.

Other attendees at the conference included representatives of the European Network on Statelessness, UNHCR and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion.