Key issues

Civil registration procedures in KRI are complex, and therefore not all individuals are able to access them. Counselling and legal aid can help navigate some of these problems, but there are others where they cannot be used. In addition, KRI hosts some of the largest proportions of stateless Kurd refugees in the region.

Advocacy with the relevant bodies is needed find ways to mitigate obstacles faced by the stateless and the consequences of non-registration. See the section on Advocacy talking points for some examples of messaging that could be used in this advocacy.

This section highlights two common challenges in KRI and some of the mechanisms that have already been used to resolve these obstacles. These solutions may not be applicable to all situations, but can be used to resolve a number of complex cases.

Challenge 1: Not having the required documents to access the registration procedures

One of the most common challenges is that many families do not have the documents required by the registration procedures. This may be because they did not bring essential documents with them when they fled Syria, because they never possessed the documents and / or because they are not able to obtain documents. Some of the mechanisms that organisations are using to navigate these problems are:

  • In KRI the government now have flexible registration procedures for birth. Authorities, for example, accept UNHCR certificates, and even the asylum application cards, as evidence of parental identity and marital status for families that lack Syrian ID cards, marriage certificates, or family booklets.,
  • Refugees who had been legally married in Syria but have lost their documents may be recognised as married if they bring their case to a religious court with witnesses to testify, and in general, there has been increasing acceptance of witness testimonials to marriages.
  • Some Sharia courts in KRI have started to accept photocopies or photos in lieu of original documents when refugees no longer have the originals. They will accept photos that have been sent online from families or friends in Syria

These solutions are obviously not available to everyone all the time, but when appropriate they should be tried, alongside advocacy around making them more available.

Challenge 2: Limited awareness of the civil registration procedure among refugees and of statelessness among stakeholders.

Refugees routinely express a lack of awareness of civil registration. They often do not know what to do to access these procedures and sometimes take steps that are not in line with KRI law and policy (for instance, UNHCR surveys showed many refugees

In terms of marriage registration, it is common practice to be married by any religious Sheikh, regardless of whether the Sheikh is authorised by the relevant religious court. To resolve this, parents can generally petition for judicial “ratification” (legal recognition) of a customary religious marriage or for late registration of their marriage and so obtain a marriage certificate. It is important to note that in the KRI, a birth may still be registered without a marriage certificate. However, registration with the authorities as a family may not be possible without a marriage certificate. believing that the vaccination booklets they received at the hospital were birth certificates). There are various organisations based in KRI (such as Qandil, Harikar, CDO and UPP) who have carried out public awareness campaigns on civil registration procedures in KRI, as well as legal aid and counselling.

In addition, despite KRI being the region to where the majority of stateless Kurds have fled, the knowledge of statelessness, why these individuals may be stateless and what their profiles are can be limited among the various stakeholders. In order to identify the stateless among the displaced, their specific protection needs. Statelessness is also necessary to understand when trying to develop long-term protection strategies. Iraq Kurdistan has a well-established protection cluster as part of its broader humanitarian response. The issue of statelessness can and should be discussed as a part of this.

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