ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An estimated 45,000 displaced children in camps are missing civil documentation and may face total exclusion from Iraqi society, including being barred from attending school, denied access to healthcare, and deprived of their most basic rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned on Tuesday.
A new report by the NRC, called “Barriers from Birth,” found that children born under the Islamic State rule in Iraq were issued birth certificates by the group that the Federal Government of Iraq considers invalid. Others had lost their documentation as they fled.
Without a valid birth certificate, one health official reported that newborns are unable to receive vaccinations in some areas, raising fears of new diseases. Children’s enrolment in Iraqi schools also requires ID.
Sitting exams or obtaining graduation certificates is often not allowed without civil documentation. As they reach adulthood, these children risk being denied state-recognized marriages, owning property, or even being formally employed.
“We face a possible human time-bomb. Allowing these children to have an education, healthcare, simply the right to exist, is key to ensuring a sustainable future for them and for the country,” Jan Egeland, the NRC’s Secretary General, said.
“A society cannot be at peace if it allows a generation of stateless children in its midst.”
The probability of children from families accused of Islamic State affiliation obtaining civil documentation is nearly impossible, resulting in the collective punishment of thousands of innocent children.
“Children are not responsible for crimes committed by their relatives, yet many are denied their basic rights as Iraqi citizens,” Egeland explained.
The number of undocumented children will increase significantly in the coming weeks with the expected return of over 30,000 Iraqis from Syria, 90 percent of whom are wives and children with suspected ties to the terror group.
As the Iraqi government and international community continue to invest in restoring public services and institutions, it is critical to ensure communities most affected by the conflict with the Islamic State – many of whom are children – have the documents required to benefit from these services, the NRC said in its statement, adding this would guarantee Iraq’s road to recovery and reconstruction.
“Undocumented children risk remaining left on the margins of society if this issue is not addressed immediately,” Egeland warned. “This seriously undermines future prospects of reconciliation efforts.”
“We urge the government to ensure that undocumented children have the right to exist like any other Iraqi citizen.”
The so-called Islamic State emerged in Iraq in June 2014, occupying Mosul, the second-largest city in the country, and soon expanded to other Iraqi provinces, including Nineveh, Salahuddin, Anbar, and Diyala.
Iraq declared a military victory over the extremist group in December 2017, but the Islamic State continues to launch insurgency attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings across the country.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany