Every Child has the Right to a Birth Certificate
Prishtinë (Priština), 1 November 2018 – Fatmire is a teenager. She plays with her siblings and other children. However, when all her friends go to school, she has to stay at home. She cannot exercise her right to education because she does not possess a birth certificate, due to this she has lost three years of schooling.
UNHCR together with the partner organization for the provision of free legal aid, the Civil Rights Program Kosovo, met Fatmire, who today now has her birth certificate. The Center for Social Welfare supported Fatmire’s enrollment in school. Today, thanks to these initiatives, Fatmire can realize her right to an education.
Right to a birth registration, the importance and the rights arising from the possession of documentation
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNICEF in Kosovo under the Coalition on ‘Every Child’s Right to a Nationality’, held a community meeting in Plemetinë/ Plemetina to discuss the importance of a birth registration and its associated rights. The meeting involved Kosovo Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities – those affected most by lacking documentation.
The Coalition on ‘Every Child’s Right to a Nationality’ aims to raise awareness for the necessity of obtaining a birth certificate and other personal documents. For children, possessing a birth certificate grants fundamental rights, such as health and education services.
The main subject of the discussion during the community meeting in Plemetinë/ Plemetina was the importance of possessing a birth registration. Other issues discussed were challenges and gaps to undertaking administrative procedures, difficulties in provision of evidentiary documentation and the role of the Centres for Social Welfare in registration of abandoned children by one or both parents.
One of the goals of the global initiative Coalition on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality is to improve birth registration and to prevent statelessness. For unregistered children the barriers are immense.
UNHCR’s partner organization the Civil Rights Program Kosovo, among other supporters, provides free legal assistance, counselling and in court representation for unregistered children. UNHCR through this organization also supports with legal assistance to voluntary returnees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons in Kosovo.
The residents that attended the meeting spoke towards a number of issues regarding the registration of children. The majority of questions asked were related to the qualifying criteria for late birth registration. The complexity of situations faced by these communities, such as: non-registration for generations, births occurring in displacement, births deriving from early marriages, abandoning of the child by one parent, and many other factors, can prevent the child from obtaining a birth registration.
Municipality response to the right of identity
Muharrem Krasniqi, Chief of Civil Status Office in Obiliq/Obilić municipality explained the criteria and how to overcome the obstacles discussed. In his office in Obiliq/ Obilić municipality, Krasniqi promised his full support.
Among other issues discussed were cases of childhood abandonment, and challenges in determining a custodial body resulting in child non-registration. A representative from the Center for Social Welfare in Obiliq/Obilić municipality said that regardless of any situation, every child has the right to a birth certificate.
The meeting was a good opportunity for the residents to get informed on a number of issues related to late birth registration, and to voice the barriers to birth registration.
As part of the ‘Coalition on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality’, activities with communities were held in Graçanicë/Gračanica and in Gjakovë/Ðakovica to raise awareness of the residents on the importance of birth registration.
We have agreed with municipal officials, social workers that we should provide the right to identity to every child. We are joining efforts with UNICEF, Red Cross of Kosovo and other organizations to ensure that the right to identity is fully realized!
UNHCR is able to support birth registration like for Fatmire thanks to generous support from donors like the United States of America, with whose help Fatmire and many others obtained a birth certificate and now she can realize her right to education.