Children born under Islamic State struggle for Iraqi citizenship

Children born under Islamic State struggle for Iraqi citizenship
Babies born under Islamic State rule have no documents to prove their Iraqi citizenship - an issue which could affect vital future access to healthcare, education and employment.
2 min read
18 November, 2016
Without documents to prove their citizenship, newborns face an uncertain future [Getty]

Children born under Islamic State rule in Mosul could face a stateless future without documents to prove their Iraqi citizenship.

Births in IS-controlled areas were registered with authorities not recognised outside that now shrinking territory - or not registered at all.

As Iraqi forces continue to purge militants from the country's north, thousands of children now in refugee camps are growing up without birth certificates to prove their identities.

"We haven't been able to issue any Iraqi documents for these children who were born since August 2014 since it has been difficult to establish their parents' origin," the exiled director of Mosul's health office told Rudaw.

According to the health office, the number of children born over the past two years could be in their thousands, but accurate data is only possible when the city has been recaptured, officials said.

Some parents of newborns who received IS-branded birth certificates reportedly destroyed the documents after Iraqi forces pushed out the militants, fearing reprisals.

Missing documents could prevent children from accessing vital healthcare and education in the future as well as hindering job prospects and making them vulnerable to abuse and trafficking.

The manager of the UN refugee agency's Debaga camp near Erbil, Ahmed Abdo, said his staff are working with the UN, a Swedish NGO and the Iraqi government to try to resolve the problem, and so far UNHCR has provided legal assistance to help resolve 175 cases.

However, with an estimated one million people expected to flee the battleground in and around Mosul in the coming months, the number is expected to rise.

Belkis Wille, of Human Rights Watch, said Iraqi authorities have an obligation to grant nationality to those born stateless in their territory.

"They should make it a priority to allow these families to reintegrate and get access to school and benefits for their children as quickly as possible," she told Reuters.

Compounding the situation is the influx of refugees from Syria, with the Baghdad government reluctant to grant citizenship to foreigners, fearing a disruption to the population make-up in areas disputed with Kurdish and other forces.