“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. “A society cannot be at peace if it allows a generation of stateless children in its midst.”
The report ‘Barriers from Birth’ found that children born under IS rule were issued birth certificates by the group that are considered invalid in the eyes of the Iraqi government. Others lost their documentation as they fled. Without a valid birth certificate, one health official reported that newborns are unable to receive vaccinations in some areas, raising fears of new diseases. Children’s enrolment in Iraqi schools also requires ID. Sitting exams or obtaining graduation certificates is often not allowed without civil documentation. As they reach adulthood, these children risk being denied state recognized marriages, owning property or even being formally employed.
The chance of obtaining civil documentation is nearly impossible for children from families accused of IS affiliation, resulting in the collective punishment of thousands of innocent children.
“Children are not responsible for crimes committed by their relatives, yet many are denied their basic rights as Iraqi citizens,” said Egeland.
The number of undocumented children will increase significantly in the coming weeks with the expected return of more than 30,000 Iraqis from Syria, 90 per cent of whom are wives and children with suspected ties to IS militants.
As the Iraqi government and the international community continue to invest in restoring public services and institutions, it is critical to ensure communities most affected by the conflict with IS — many of whom are children — have the documents required to benefit from these services. This will guarantee Iraq’s road to recovery and reconstruction.
“Undocumented children risk remaining left on the margins of society if this issue is not addressed immediately. This seriously undermines future prospects of reconciliation efforts,” Egeland added. “We urge the government to ensure that undocumented children have the right to exist like any other Iraqi citizen.”
- 1,7 million Iraqis are still displaced, including around 450,000 in camps.
- An estimated 870,000 children are still displaced across Iraq including 225,000 in camps.
- It can take between 6 month – 2 years to obtain/retrieve civil documentation for children born under IS rule.
- NRC has helped issue nearly 8,000 legal identity and civil documents for children affected by the conflict with IS in Iraq since 2016.
- About 80,000 households across Iraq may have family members missing at least one form of ID. The total number of children may be even higher.
- The most complicated cases— children whose parents are undocumented, are on one of the government’s security databases or are perceived to be affiliated with IS—are almost impossible to help. NRC legal teams receive on average 170 requests for help from cases like this each month across the country.