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45,000 Iraq child to face stateless future

May 1, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Iraqi children take refuge at a refugee camp in Iraq on 19 March 2017 (Yunus Keleş /Anadolu Agency)

Post-conflict Iraq faces a “human time-bomb” of 45,000 stateless children, according to a report released yesterday by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) rights group.

Daesh issued birth certificates to children born in their now defunct “caliphate” are unrecognised by Iraqi authorities, leaving children stateless.

Without civil documents, the children are unable to attend school, denied healthcare and will be unable to participate in Iraqi society in the future.

In some areas of Iraq, birth certificates are required for children to access vaccinations and identification is also needed to marry, own property and gain employment.

“We face a possible human time-bomb. Allowing these children to have an education, healthcare, simply the right to exist, is key to ensuring a sustainable future for them and for the country,” said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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“A society cannot be at peace if it allows a generation of stateless children in its midst.”

“One thing to remember is that Iraqi civil documents are all interlinked,” Alexandra Saieh, advocacy manager at NRC, told MEMO.

“To get an ID, you need a birth certificate, to get a birth certificate your parents need to have a state issued marriage certificate and both of their IDs.”

NRC receives requests from 170 people per month who they say they are unable to help because their parents are either missing civil IDs or because a relative is listed on a security database.

“We need the Iraqi government to adopt an official policy or ad hoc procedure that enables children to speedily access documentation, regardless of the status of their parents,” she said.

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For those children whose families stand accused of Daesh affiliation, the chances of obtaining documents are near zero, “resulting in the collective punishment of thousands of innocent children,” according to the NRC report.

“We’re aware of a proposal being considered by the government to address the issue, but we are calling for immediate action before this spirals,” Saieh said.

Daesh controlled around a third of Iraq in 2014.

“Children are not responsible for crimes committed by their relatives, yet many are denied their basic rights as Iraqi citizens,” Egeland continued.

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While many of the children were issued documents by Daesh, other families simply lost their children’s identification while fleeing their homes.

NRC expects the number of stateless children to increase over the coming weeks with the expected return of over 30,000 Iraqi refugees from Syria.