The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides free Information and Counselling Legal Assistance (ICLA) services to Syrian refugees in across the country on a yearly basis, to support them in dealing primarily with civil documentation (birth, marriage, divorce and death registration), legal residency, employment rights, and housing, land and property (HLP) rights.

As part of the response, NRC reached out to Hassan under a consortium project together with International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Humanity Inclusion (HI), through support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Department Office.

“A few months/weeks ago, NRC visited us and provided information on legal assistance. “NRC then referred us to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) because my daughters were born in Hermel and it falls under their area of work to register their birth but NRC helped me obtain a marriage certificate,” Hassan explains. 

“I met with a lawyer who processed the paperwork, then I signed them and it was done. It was very comfortable and the process was very easy. Now when the borders will open, I can send my family to Syria without any legal problems,” Hassan says. “I am beyond happy with how NRC helped me,” says Hassan.

Photo: Zaynab Mayladan/NRC
Lebanon

Hassan’s daughters can finally cross the border

“I always worried because I knew that if I ever decided to go back to Syria I wouldn’t be able to take them with me,” says Hassan of his four daughters. He is one of thousands of Syrians whose children were born in Lebanon but who was not able to register the births.

After nine years of conflict in Syria, Syrian refugees across the Middle East region are still struggling to create a stable life for their children. In Lebanon, where more than 200,000 Syrian children have been born since 2011, Syrian parents continue to face legal obstacles when they need ID papers for their children. 

According to the UN refugee agency, 70 per cent of Syrian newborns in Lebanon lack complete birth registration certificates. This puts hundreds of thousands of children at risk of abuse and exploitation.

These children may have problems accessing services such as education, healthcare, legal support or humanitarian assistance if they return to Syria in future.

Hassan, 35, is one of thousands of fathers whose children were born in Lebanon but who was not able to register the births – a problem he was not aware of before he got married.

“There was no proof they were my daughters”

Hassan is originally from El Hasaka in Syria. A few years before the Syrian crisis began, his parents fled to Lebanon to seek a better life for their children.

Life was harsh in Syria and there were no job opportunities where they lived. However, Hassan’s family would regularly visit their homeland, and whenever his parents had any official errands, they would cross the borders to deal with the Syrian authorities.

Although Hassan grew up in Masharih al-Qaa in Lebanon, a small town near the Syrian border, he only has Syrian nationality. He is therefore required to follow the same legal processes for family documents as any other Syrian refugee in Lebanon. Now that the borders are closed due to the conflict, travelling to Syria as his parents used to do is not an option for him.

After nine years of conflict in Syria, Syrian refugees across the region are still struggling to create a stable life for their children amidst all the chaos. In Lebanon, as more than 200,000 Syrian children have been born since 2011, Syrian parents continue to face legal challenges to access identification documents for their children.  

According to UNHCR, 70% of Syrian newborns lack complete birth registration certificates with Lebanese authorities, which puts hundreds of thousands of children at risk of abuse and exploitation. These children may have problems accessing government services such as education, healthcare, legal support or humanitarian assistance if they return to Syria in future.

Hassan’s family is one of the thousands of families whose children were born in Lebanon but were not able to have their birth registered. A problem Hassan was not aware of before getting married. 

Life in Lebanon
A few years before the crisis in Syria, Hassan’s parents fled Syria to seek a better life for their children in Lebanon. Life was harsh in Syria and there were no jo opportunities where they lived. However, his family would regularly visit Syria and whenever his parents had any official errands they would cross the borders to deal with the Syrian authorities. 

Although Hassan grew up in Masharih al-Qaa in Lebanon, a small town near the Syrian borders, he only has the Syrian nationality and is therefore required to follow the same legal processes for family documents like any other Syrian refugee in Lebanon. With the borders closed due to the conflict, travelling to Syria as his parents used to do has not been an option for him. 

“My four daughters were born in Lebanon but I was no able to legally register their birth,” says 35-year old Hassan, who is originally from El Hasaka in Syria. “I always worried and stressed about it because I knew that if I ever decided to go back to Syria I wouldn’t be able to take them with me. There was no proof they are my daughters.”

“We didn’t have enough knowledge about how to register their birth but even no money to afford to complete the legal process ourselves. This town is the outskirts of Baalbaak and there are no proper public transportation channels to visit the required authorities,” Hassan explains. 

NRC’s legal services
Children without complete birth certificates can be prevented from travelling, and thus, returning to Syria also if people return to Syria and their civil documentation on the Lebanese side of the border has not been finalized, it will be challenging to update their family records inside Syria.  It is therefore crucial that Syrian refugees sort out their papers as soon as possible to avoid unexpected bureaucratic barriers in the future. 

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides free Information and Counselling Legal Assistance (ICLA) services to approximately XXX Syrian refugees in across the country on a yearly basis, to support them in dealing primarily with civil documentation (birth, marriage, divorce and death registration), legal residency, employment rights, and housing, land and property (HLP) rights.

As part of the response, NRC reached out to Hassan under a consortium project together with International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Humanity Inclusion (HI), through support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Department Office.

“A few months/weeks ago, NRC visited us and provided information on legal assistance. “NRC then referred us to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) because my daughters were born in Hermel and it falls under their area of work to register their birth but NRC helped me obtain a marriage certificate,” Hassan explains. 

“I met with a lawyer who processed the paperwork, then I signed them and it was done. It was very comfortable and the process was very easy. Now when the borders will open, I can send my family to Syria without any legal problems,” Hassan says. “I am beyond happy with how NRC helped me,” says Hassan.
 
Making ends meet
The situation in Lebanon is becoming increasingly difficult day by day as the financial crisis deteriorates. Vulnerable Syrian and Lebanese communities struggle to cover their very basic needs and more than 83 per cent of Syrian refugees are living below the extreme poverty line.

“Although I have lived in Lebanon for so long I struggle to make ends meet just like any refugee family in the country. The country is going through several crises at once and it’s not easy to earn an income. I work as a farmer on occasional basis earning about 10,000 Lebanese Lira (1.3USD) per day,” says Hassan. It’s not sufficient to provide for my family, I can’t buy clothes for my children if they need it or enough food for our household.”

“Even the lack of transportation is a problem if we need to access health care services we can’t. We are so far away that if an emergency happens we can’t get any help. This is my biggest nightmare, what happens if one of my daughters gets really sick,” Hassan questions himself.

“A while back, three of my daughters got the flu and fever but I didn’t have any money to get them to a clinic and I was too embarrassed to ask my neighbour for money, luckily I met a doctor who offered to help. The doctor came to us and treated my daughters for free. I honestly don’t know what would I have done without him,” Hassan explains.

Covid-19 and upcoming winter
“Today, we fear the upcoming months. The real concern will soon be to stay warm during the winter. We live in Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) with minimal protection from harsh rain and snow. It is too expensive to get material to cover our tent so we only have plastic sheets to cover the sides of which isn’t very effective because the water is leaking inside,” Hassan explains. Also, I barely work during the winter months to this means less income. 

“The coronavirus pandemic makes things much worse, we are forced to stay at home and we won’t be able to take refuge in neighbours’ homes when our tent is leaking. My children do not really understand why there is a lockdown. They are always extremely bored because they are spending their whole day inside a small tent,” says Hassan.

“We are taking all preventive measures, we have limited our time outdoors and cancelled visits. Sometimes, I discretely take the girls outside so they can walk and play at night to ease it on them a little bit. It is unfortunate that they have to spend their childhood this way,” Hassan says.  

“Despite these hardships, I’m only grateful to have this tent above our heads. I can’t imagine myself homeless with four little children,” says Hassan. “All I really wish for my children is that I can give them a decent life and enrol them in school. I want them to get proper education because this will give them more opportunities in the future,” Hassan concludes. 

Photo: Zaynab Mayladan/ NRC
Read caption Hassan with three of his daughters, outside their home in an informal tented settlement near Baalbaak. Photo: Zaynab Mayladan/NRC

“My four daughters were born in Lebanon but I was not able to legally register their births,” says Hassan. “I always worried and stressed about it because I knew that if I ever decided to go back to Syria I wouldn’t be able to take them with me. There was no proof they were my daughters.”

“We didn’t have enough knowledge about how to register births, or enough money to complete the legal process ourselves. This town is on the outskirts of Baalbek and there is no proper public transport for us to visit the required authorities,” Hassan explains.

How we helped Hassan

Children without complete birth certificates can be prevented from travelling. If families return to Syria it can be challenging for them to update their records, because their documents need to be finalised in Lebanon first.

It is therefore crucial that Syrian refugees sort out their papers as soon as possible to avoid unexpected bureaucratic barriers in the future.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides free information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) services to approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon each year. We support them primarily in dealing with civil documentation (birth, marriage, divorce and death registration), legal residency, employment rights, and housing, land and property (HLP) rights.

Now when the borders finally open, I can send my family to Syria without any legal problems
Hassan

As part of this programme, we reached out to Hassan through a joint project with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Humanity Inclusion (HI), with support from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“A few months ago, NRC visited us and provided information on legal assistance,” Hassan explains. “NRC then referred us to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to register my daughters’ births, and helped me to obtain a marriage certificate.”

“I met with a lawyer who processed the paperwork. When it was complete, I signed it and it was done. It was very comfortable and the process was very easy. Now when the borders finally open, I can send my family to Syria without any legal problems,” Hassan says. “I am beyond happy with how NRC helped me.”

About our ICLA work

NRC conducts outreach activities in refugee communities, provides information sessions on legal protection topics, and ensures the safe identification and referral of people to service providers.

Together with specialised lawyers, our teams organise legal clinics to provide tailored legal counselling. We use mobile legal clinics to help refugees access legal services where there are limitations on freedom of movement.

In complex cases and where refugees are vulnerable, we offer legal assistance and representation at administrative authorities and courts.

We also aim to address the legal challenges faced by the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon, through the provision of legal services focusing on civil documentation and housing and property rights.

During the outbreak of Covid-19 in Lebanon, our ICLA services have been implemented remotely wherever possible. Our staff and lawyers have provided information and counselling by phone, enabling us to continue delivering legal services in response to refugees’ needs during these challenging times.