Opera singer backs drive to help 10 million 'ghost' people

Tue Sep 16, 2014 4:52pm EDT
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By Emma Batha

THE HAGUE The Netherlands (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Opera singer Barbara Hendricks lent her voice on Tuesday to a global campaign to end statelessness, calling for an end to the suffering of 10 million "ghost" people.

The U.S.-born soprano said she had been moved to tears by the stories told by former stateless people on the second day of the world's first international forum on statelessness.

Hendricks said it was important for everyone to belong somewhere and that no one should be "walking around like a ghost".

Stateless people are not recognised as nationals by any country and deprived of the rights most people take for granted. They often live on the margins of society where they are vulnerable to exploitation.

"I want to be the voice of those who really have no voice," Hendricks told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the Hague forum which has brought together 300 experts.

"The solutions will come from the concerned states, but public opinion plays an enormous role. Politicians usually don't do things for people who can't vote for them, but public opinion tends to move them to do things for those people."

The singer said her own experience of growing up in the racially segregated southern United States in the 1950s had shown her what it's like to be a second class citizen.

"I was in tears listening to some of the stories (today)," said Hendricks, who has sung on all the major opera stages in the world including the Paris Opera and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. "Everyone's a human being, and we're all born free and equal in dignity and in rights – and that's the bottom line for me."   Continued...

U.S. singer Barbara Hendricks (L) and The Magnus Lindgren Quartet performs jazz music at the Principal theatre in the northern Spanish town of Burgos, November 17, 2006.  REUTERS/Felix Ordonez