Human Rights |

Syrian refugees in Lebanon urged to register births

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Syrian refugee children, pictured here, have been living in camps in Lebanon since they were born. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are encouraged to register the births of their children, as this will facilitate their eventual claim of Syrian citizenship and benefits. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq]

Lebanese officials are encouraging Syrian refugees to register the births of their children, saying this will facilitate their eventual claim of Syrian citizenship.

A registered birth certificate will facilitate the process of obtaining a Syrian identity card once the family repatriates, Lebanese officials told Al-Mashareq.

It also will make it easier for the Lebanese and Syrian governments to ascertain the numbers of returning Syrians.

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Lebanese officials are encouraging Syrian families to register their children born in Lebanon so they can eventually claim Syrian citizenship. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq]

Lebanese Minister of Labour Minister Kamil Abu Suleiman on October 4th warned of the consequences of not registering Syrian refugee births, saying this could have negative consequences for both Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens.

He said he will continue to co-ordinate with the Ministry of Interior and concerned security agencies with regard to this issue.

The Lebanese government issued a decision on February 8th, 2018 that allows all Syrian children born in Lebanon since early 2011 to be registered administratively, without the need for a judicial decision.

The government then granted the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities the authority to register Syrian births that occurred in Lebanon after 2011 without complicated judicial procedures.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 188,000 Syrian children were born in Lebanon between 2011 and 2019, while around 926,0000 Syrian refugees were present in Lebanon as of July 31st.

Registration procedures

According to a source at the Ministry of Interior, the registration of Syrian births requires a birth certificate authenticated by the attending physician, midwife or hospital, and a copy of the family register.

In the case where a family register is not available, the parents’ marriage certificate and a birth certificate signed by the mayor of the child’s birthplace can be used instead.

To register Syrian births in Lebanon, documents must be submitted to the district’s census bureau. Two fields in the child’s birth certificate must be filled out, and the certificate will be registered with the local census bureau.

The paperwork is then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates to be authenticated, and then forwarded to the Syrian embassy in Lebanon, the ministry source said.

Need for registration

The registration of the birth certificate with the Syrian embassy "allows the Syrian refugee to add their child to the Syrian family register", said George Najjar of the Bekaa office of the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights.

Najjar is the official in charge of following up on the registration of Syrian births.

Registering these births is very important, he said, because according to international conventions and treaties, every child born outside their country must have identification papers in order to acquire citizenship from that country.

"The importance of registering Syrian births in Lebanon lies in that it proves the child’s filiation to his parents, and he is thereby recognised as having Syrian lineage," he told Al-Mashareq.

This would entitle the child to acquire Syrian citizenship upon completion of the registration procedures in Lebanon, Najjar said.

It also allows the child to register with the UNHCR to receive aid, enroll in school and cross the border into Syria, among other rights, he said.

Registering the births of children born to Syrian parents and issuing them identification papers "gives them legal status, prevents them from being extorted and exploited, and provides them with protection", Najjar added.

Simplified procedures

A full 30% of Syrian refugee children born in Lebanon were registered as foreign births in 2019, up 10% from 2017, because the Lebanese government facilitated their registration, said UNHCR public information officer Lisa Abu Khaled.

In September 2017, the Lebanese government began facilitating the birth registration of Syrian children and marriage registration of their parents through simplified procedures, she told Al-Mashareq.

"UNHCR is working with the ministries of interior and social affairs, as well as local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to respond to the birth registration issue," she said.

It also has been providing legal assistance to those who encounter difficulties.

"There has been an improvement at every step of the birth registration process," Abu Khaled, which demonstrates "everyone's commitment to addressing this issue".

The acquisition of a birth certificate is important "because it is a document that proves the child's identity and citizenship as a Syrian national", she said.

It is essential throughout the child’s life, starting from the time they return to Syria, in order to be registered there and receive services in Syria, such as timely vaccinations and enrollment in school, she said.

Abu Khaled said UNHCR expects "the number of birth registrations to increase through the end of 2019, thanks to the decision made by the government and the resulting increased capacity of census bureaus to register births".

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