Birth registration problems in complex migration contexts – case studies from the Netherlands
Defence for Children - ECPAT Netherlands is cooperating with DLA Piper and human rights lawyer Mrs. Cerezo in a project procuring birth certificates for children in the Netherlands. The experience from this project has demonstrated that the reasons for missing out on birth registration and/or a birth certificate are manifold but almost always relate to the migration history of the family. Two examples of cases we are currently working on give some insight into the difficulties faced by children to realise their right to birth registration in complex migration contexts:
Hamsi is a young man of 27 residing in Germany without any identity documentation. He is the son of traveling parents who were passing through the Netherlands at the time of his birth. His parents are undocumented but identify themselves as former Yugoslavian. Hamsi’s birth was not registered in the Netherlands. He now wants to marry and start a family but this has become impossible because he lacks a birth certificate. Efforts to obtain a birth certificate in the Netherlands have proven very difficult. Proof of his place of birth cannot be produced due to the illiteracy of his parents and the time that has passed since his birth. While trying to find solutions for the many bureaucratic difficulties we lost touch with Hamsi as he became frustrated and disillusioned about the whole procedure.
Destiny, originally from Nigeria, was trafficked to the Netherlands via Spain. During the exploitation that took place in Spain she got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl named Blessing. She was unaware and unable to register the birth of her child in Spain. She had little knowledge about the city or region where she was kept by her trafficker. Destiny and Blessing were trafficked on to the Netherlands where eventually they both escaped. Destiny received protection and a residency permit as a victim of trafficking. However, as Blessing has no birth certificate, they therefore cannot prove the family link and establish Blessing’s right to a residence permit as Destiny’s daughter. Special provisions for the birth registration of children born in difficult circumstances only apply to children of mothers with asylum status and not mothers who have been kept in a situation of exploitation. Efforts to register Blessing’s birth in Spain are complicated since Destiny does not know the location of the birth.
In all of our cases, the two described above among them, we have to work together to overcome both procedural and financial obstacles that are quite difficult to face for families with children without birth registration and who may also be at risk of statelessness as a result.