Read caption Nada (6) and her sister Zainab (3), preparing themselves to go to school. These photos were taken for the Securing status logo that features Syrian refugees and children and their issues in relation to legal and civil documentation. Photo:Lian Saifi/NRC

Syrian refugees’ documentation crisis

Samer Aburass|Published 26. Jan 2017
A documentation crisis is taking shape among Syrian refugees in the region, threatening to leave hundreds of thousands in legal limbo, with dire consequences for their ability to access services and have a durable return to Syria.

In 2016, NRC interviewed 580 Syrian refugee households in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to assess their rights to legal identity as well as their housing, land and property situation inside Syria.

The research found that, due to the nature of displacement and complex legal frameworks both in Syria and host countries, thousands of refugees lack basic identification and property ownership documents. This will impact their ability to claim a range of rights and protection needs, both in their host countries and inside Syria if and when they choose to return.

Refugees

70%

of refugees lack basic identity documents

Children

24%

of refugee kids below the age of five are not properly registered

Marriage

50%

of married Syrian refugees do not have marriage documentation

 
Loss of legal identity

In the briefing note Syrian Refugees’ Right to Legal Identity: Implications for Return, NRC demonstrates the implications of the loss of identification and legal documents among Syrian refugees in the region, particularly for thousands of refugee children who are at risk of becoming stateless.

Read caption Muna (5) and Maha (2) are Syrian refugee children living in Irbid with their mother. These photos were taken for the Securing status report that features Syrian refugees and children and their issues in relation to legal and civil documentation. Photo: Lian Saifi/NRC.

 
Loss of Property Rights

With regards to housing, land and property rights, the survey shows a prevalence of ownership claims¬ that are not supported by legal documents for a variety of reasons. These include loss of documentation due to displacement, as well as historical and cultural practices governing the transfer of titles within families. The briefing note Reflections on Future Challenges to Housing, Land and Property Restitution for Syrian Refugees illustrates how future restitution and compensation processes will need to take into consideration the complex legal framework and customary and cultural practices prior to the conflict as well as the impact of displacement on them in order to support durable returns.

Read caption From left to right: Mohammad, Muna, Maha and Omar siting in their living room at their house in Irbid. These photos were taken for the Securing status report that features Syrian refugees and children and their issues in relation to legal and civil documentation. Photo: Lian Saifi/NRC
Facts
  • Nearly a third of the refugees who possessed deeds for their most important property in Syria reported that those documents were lost or destroyed.
  • At least half of the refugees who left their property deeds behind fear that they would not find them if and when they return.
  • 70% of refugees lack basic identity documents.
  • 24% of refugee kids below the age of five are not properly registered.
  • Over half of married Syrian refugees do not have marriage documentation, with dire consequences for themselves and their children.