Lobby seeks registration for refugees’ children’s citizenship

Friday, November 18th, 2022 06:40 | By
Lobby seeks registration for refugees' children's citizenship
Two mothers with their children at Dadaab refugee camp. PD/FILE

A suit has been lodged at the High Court seeking to compel the government to register children born out of a union between a Kenyan and a refugee as Kenyan citizens.

Documents filed at the High Court in Milimani by a human rights organisation, Haki na Sheria Initiative, says such children should be recognized and registered as citizens by birth.

The petitioner is challenging the State’s actions to hinder children born in Kenya by a parent who is a Kenyan citizen and a parent granted or seeking refugee status in Kenya from gaining citizenship rights.

The lobby claims the children should no longer be described or registered as refugees and that the government should not impede the attainment of documents that are integral to the grant of citizenship. 

The lawsuit sprung from the government’s decision to issue children of a polygamous man in Garissa county, who is married to a refugee woman living at Hagadera Refugee Camp, with birth certificates stamped “Refugee”.

He is also married to a Kenyan woman. The man has five children with the refugee woman and seven with the Kenyan. His children with a Kenyan woman were properly registered and issued with birth notifications and certificates of birth while those he got with a refugee woman had the Refugee Agency stamps or “Refugee” stamps.

The basis of the case is a child named AMM, born on October 23, 2017, to a Kenyan father and a mother who has been granted refugee status by the Kenyan government.  He was born in Hagadera Refugee Camp in Dadaab and has been living there with his mother since his birth. He was issued a Birth Notification that bears a Refugee Agency stamp -International Rescue Committee (IRC) and was issued a Certificate of Birth that bears the words “Refugee” on the face of it.

Additionally, his particulars were entered into the Refugee Database by the government. He has four other siblings born to his mother and father who have been subjected to the same process.

“The Birth Notifications bearing the Refugee stamp, the Certificate of Birth bearing the “Refugee” stamp and the entry of particulars in the Refugee Database designate him, his siblings and all other children in similar circumstances as Refugees from birth,” says the rights group.

Any attempts to access birth notifications or certificates of birth not bearing the Refugee Agency stamps or “Refugee” stamps are hampered because law enforcement officers do not allow children with marked birth notifications or certificates of birth to travel outside the refugee camps.

On multiple occasions, AMM and his siblings tried to go to Garissa for medical treatment, and school and family visits but were denied due to the nature of the documents issued to them by the government.

Conversely, AMM’s seven siblings born to his father and a Kenyan citizen woman were issued unmarked Birth Notifications and Certificates of Birth at Garissa town where they live.

For that reason, they are not riddled with the hurdles that have faced AMM and their other four siblings born of a Refugee mother. “These challenges in the proper registration of births and issuance of the right Birth Notifications and Certificates of Birth to children born to Kenyan citizens and Refugees stem largely from the fact that the Principal Registrar of Births and Deaths has no office in Dadaab Sub-county,” said the human rights group.

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