UNHCR Embarks Birth Registration of Ivorian Refugees
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR has announced a mass birth registration targeting all Ivorian refugee children born in Liberia from 0 – 2.5 years in refugee camps in the country.
It says the two-week long exercise is covering the Solo and PTP (former Prime Timber Production) refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County, Little Wlebo Refugee Camp in Maryland County, and the Bahn Refugee Camp in Nimba County.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is undertaking the exercise in collaboration with the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW). Other partners are also participating in the exercise.
“Issuing birth certificates to all refugee children is a global strategic priority for UNHCR for 2012/2013. When a person does not have an officially established existence, there can be no birth certificate, no proof of age, no proof of biological parentage, no identification, no citizenship and no passport,” said UNHCR Protection Officer Lisa Quarshie.
The birth registration exercise, aimed at preventing future statelessness amongst other reasons, started with awareness raising and training by MoHSW officials. The ongoing filling of application forms is expected to end in mid-June. It will be followed by the issuance of Liberian birth certificates to the refugees by the ministry.
“Children with no birth certificate do not exist before the law,” remarked Acting UNHCR Representative Robert Tibagwa, clarifying that the UN refugee agency registers all refugee children as soon as they are born and records them in the UNHCR data base.
“The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the Government of Liberia registers and certifies all refugee children born in Liberia and to provide them with birth certificates as required by law. The issuance of birth certificates does not mean that the children automatically become Liberian citizens. They remain Ivorian citizens.”
The exercise is targeting about 2,900 refugee children. UNHCR estimates that about 3,000 children have been born in Liberia over the past two-and-a-half years, 99% of whom do not have birth certificates and some of them have already repatriated. MoHSW officials say post-war Liberia still faces logistical challenges and commend the UNHCR for supporting the ministry to undertake the exercise. Health officials say they hope the UNHCR example will inspire some Liberians whose children do not have birth certificates to also follow suit.
After the ongoing exercise, birth application forms will be henceforth routinely filled at clinics in refugee camps. Liberia currently hosts nearly 60,000 registered Ivorian refugees.