Read caption After a two-year struggle, and with help from NRC, Syrian refugee Khaled Al Taleb managed to get his youngest son Abdelhadi an identity card and access to basic rights in Jordan. Photo: Hasan Hijazi/NRC

Fighting for Syrians’ right to a legal identity in Jordan

Hassan Hijazi|Published 31. May 2018
When Syrian refugee Khaled Al Taleb couldn’t register Abdelhadi, his youngest child, with the Jordanian authorities, it was the start of a two-year struggle to get Abdelhadi an identity card and access to basic rights.

In 2013, Khaled Al Taleb fled the war in Syria with his wife and seven children.

“Our life was good there. We were farm-owners. My brothers and I were famous for having many children, that’s why I have seven,” he says.

 “My brothers are still living there, but in an area outside our village. I had to leave.”

Born under fire

Khaled’s children were born in Syria. Most of them were registered and have passports. Shortly after Abdelhadi, Khaled’s youngest son was born, the hospital came under fire. The family had to flee without obtaining a birth notification.

“The security situation was so bad that we couldn’t even go to the civil department to register him. We had to flee immediately,” says Khaled.

Khaled could not return to his hometown, Homs, to do the paperwork because it was too dangerous. However, he registered Abdelhadi at the local authority bureau and obtained a paper stating that Abdelhadi is his son.

Proof of kinship and existence

The only document that Khaled brought with him from Syria was his family book. Everyone in it was registered, except for Abdelhadi. The Jordanian authorities did not recognise the letter Khaled had from the Al Mukhtar as a proof of Abdelhadi’s family lineage. This meant the he was the only family member unable to get a new Ministry of Interior (MoI) card in 2016. For two years, Khaled had to go through complicated procedures and paperwork to prove that Abdelhadi is his son.

“I asked my family back in Syria to register Abdelhadi in the Syrian civil department and send the papers to Jordan so I could add him to the family book, but the authorities didn’t accept this. All of my attempts failed.”

His son was very sad and disappointed, all of his siblings had a card except for him, and he felt different and left out. I remember one day they said I might get it, so I went home and told him to get ready to collect it. When it didn’t work he cried, and that is the worst thing to see as a parent,” says Khaled. Without the card, his son did not have access to basic services such as healthcare or even attend school.

“I kept trying for almost two years. Then, one day I was at a nearby community-based organisation (CBO) and found a brochure for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and read about their legal assistance programme. I immediately called them to help me obtain the card. All I had for Abdelhadi was the UNHCR Asylum Seeker Certificate (ACS) which was not enough at the time.”

Positive changes

Thanks to the European Commission (ECHO), and other key donors’ support in the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) advocacy effort with the Government, positive changes in regulations were made in July 2017 in order to ease refugees’ registration outside of camps. The changes allowed refugees who live out-of-camp to register with the authorities and obtain an MoI card, including Syrian children born in Syria without birth certificates.

“I received a phone call from the NRC, asking me to take the UNHCR ASC and head to the police station to obtain an MoI card for Abdelhadi,” says Khaled. “I was very nervous and sceptical that I wouldn’t receive the card. To my surprise it worked and that was one of the biggest highlights of my year.”

Thanks to this positive policy change, Abdelhadi is now registered with the authorities and can access essential services such as public healthcare.

Our information, counselling and legal assistance work in Jordan

Funded by ECHO, NRC is running an information, counselling and legal assistance programme with Syrian refugees living in host communities in Jordan. The programme supports refugees to obtain legal and civil registration.

Through an NRC campaign to allow the rectification of legal status of thousands of Syrian refugees living outside of refugee camps, at least 30,000 Syrian refugees have been able to receive their identification documents using their asylum seeker certificates from UNHCR. This allows them to access essential services such as education and health, obtain work permits and receive humanitarian assistance.

In 2017, NRC assisted more than 28,000 Syrian refugees, providing more than 41,000 information, counselling and legal assistance services.

83 per cent of these services were provided through direct outreach in various local communities with 13 per cent provided inside NRC’s centres in Irbid and Jerash, and 4 per cent through NRC’s call centre.