For more than two decades, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has assisted displaced persons to access civil registration and identification documents. Since 2018 alone, NRC assisted approximately more than 600,000 individuals worldwide to register and obtain documents.
We provide information on rights, procedures and remedies; enable legal advice and representation before government entities; support women’s access to documentation; and, in some contexts, make cash transfers complementing these initiatives.
Access to registration and identification is not only often a pre-condition to enjoy rights and basic services, like freedom of movement or access to education, but also to access humanitarian assistance when populations are displaced.
For example, refugee children are often excluded from accessing education because of missing identity-related documentation required for school enrolment or examination eligibility. In crisis situations, not being able to provide a document may result in being denied humanitarian assistance. Displaced persons who cannot produce the required documents may end up excluded from reconstruction efforts and from institutional support aiming at finding solutions to displacement.
NRC provides services directly to those affected so they can overcome these barriers, but it also aims to contribute to systemic changes by advocating policy changes and building the capacities of authorities so they can fulfil their obligations.
Displaced persons face a diverse mix of legal, bureaucratic and practical obstacles, as well as discriminatory practices. These include unaffordable costs, lack of information about procedures, and discrimination based in law or social practices.
Displaced persons are frequently asked to produce identity documents to obtain other documents or to register their children. Often, they cannot produce such documents because they lost them—or they never had them—and they end up in a vicious circle of being undocumented and lacking registration. These barriers are not unique to displacement contexts, but the specific vulnerabilities of displaced persons make them even more consequential.
There are, however, certain barriers specific to displacement contexts. For example, documents can often only be obtained in the place of origin and displaced persons cannot make the journey because of security concerns, lack of resources or fear of jeopardizing their legal stay in a host country. Also, the destruction of identity and civil registration offices and records as a result of conflict or disaster means that foundational documents are missing.