Without birth registration you cannot go to school, your freedom of movement is restricted, cannot own property and find employment
Prishtinë/ Priština, 15 June 2020 – UNHCR
An aching tooth turned out to be the turning point for Sheribane to start the registration procedure for her son. One day when she arrived at the hospital she was told that her son could not get the necessary treatment. He was not registered at that time, so he could not benefit from the free health care system in Kosovo.
Public institutions such as hospitals need to see legal documents in order to give their services. “When you go to a public hospital you need to prove your identity. At that time my son was not registered and we didn’t have any document of his,” says Sheribane.
In that situation, a desperate father asks people for money so his son can be treated in non-public health institutions, and after the successful recovery, decides to do everything possible to never face such problems again.
Sheribane recalls that this situation is the same as her many childhood memories as an unregistered young woman. She was not registered at birth as well, and from first-hand experience, she does not wish the same for her children.
“I was not registered at birth and have faced a lot of difficulties to obtain the identification card for myself. When I finally got it, my unregistered children had already grown up. I wanted them not to go through the same experience as I had but preventing that was impossible, since I was not registered either. They grew up, got married and they are not registered yet, just the same as my grandchildren,” says Sheribane.
Her family is dependent on low and unstable income. Her husband is the only member who works only partially. They have lived in the countryside for more than 14 years now, which makes municipal offices not easily accessible when lack of money is added. All this made her view the procedure of late birth registration as too complicated and did not know where to seek help.
…a feeling that I never got to experience.
“I always knew that registration is important! Life is completely different for people who lack documents. Now, with the help of UNHCR, my son has been registered. My two older daughters are still unregistered and did not have the opportunity to benefit from education,” says Sheribane.
Heartbroken and sad, she regrets not starting the registration procedure for them earlier.
She is excited that her daughters, together with their children, have begun to receive assistance from UNHCR and soon they will all register. When asked what would be one thing that will be different from now on, she tells us that she can barely wait for her son to be old enough to go to school.
“Getting him ready and taking him to school, helping with his homework, will be a new feeling for me, a feeling that I never got to experience,” says Sheribane.
Unregistered people often face several difficulties in exercising their basic rights
Just as Sheribane there are still people who miss a simple piece of paper with their name on it. This can bring a lot of disadvantages in everyday challenges, ranging from fundamental human rights deprivation, such as education, travel and free health care, to not benefiting from social schemes.
The exact number of unregistered persons at risk of statelessness is not yet determined by authorities. Currently, there are 118 unregistered persons identified by UNHCR Partner Organisation, who are receiving free of charge legal aid to register in the civil status registry. At present, they have no legal identity.
“Birth registration is the first and the most important step for a child towards the establishment of the legal identity,” says Milanka Bazdar, an associate at UNHCR in Prishtinë/ Priština.
She adds that “without being registered you cannot go to school, your freedom of movement is restricted, cannot own property and find employment. Benefiting from any social package is impossible as well.”
UNHCR in Pristina through its legal aid programme helped more than 20,000 persons to register their civil status facts since 2005, and today’s number mostly reflects complex cases, facing lengthy administrative and judiciary procedures.
Provision of documentation means improving the quality of life and the overall welfare
Unregistered individuals and families cannot benefit from social assistance schemes and from Emergency Fiscal Packages related to COVID-19 situation. When everyone else is entitled to benefit emergency assistance in these desperate times, they are left alone and without support.
Supporting those in need of civil registration and civil status registration remains a lengthy process that requires a lot of effort. But after granting people their basic human rights, all the effort is properly rewarded.
Pictures by: Yll Zajmi, Civil Rights Programme Kosovo