The UN refugee agency and the Ghanaian Registrar of Births and Deaths are registering children in Buduburam refugee settlement in order to provide them with birth certificates. This will fulfil their birthright to an identity and facilitate repatriation should their parents choose to return to Liberia.
By Needa Jehu-Hoyah
ACCRA, Ghana, Dec 8 (UNHCR) – They came in the wee hours of the morning, bearing stools and chairs in anticipation of the long wait. By daybreak the crowd had grown exponentially, gathering outside the primary school at Buduburam refugee settlement in Ghana to make sure their children got a head start in life.
The refugees were waiting to meet the visiting team from the Registrar of Births and Deaths, who had set up base in the freshly-painted school block in late October to register refugee children for birth certificates. Of the 42,000 mostly Liberian refugees in Buduburam settlement, more than 18,000 are children. Many of the 4,000 born in the settlement have no official biographical document, even though some were born up to 11 years ago.
The magnitude of the problem came to light when UNHCR started registering the Liberian refugees for voluntary repatriation a few months ago. The agency’s staff were already aware that most of the newborn babies did not have birth certificates, but further probing revealed that for children above the age of one, registering their births required cash for the processing of affidavits – approximately the cost of eight meals – which the refugee mothers could not afford.
In response, UNHCR offered to pay the processing fee, and brought in the birth registration team and a commissioner of oaths to process the affidavits. The birth registration was also simplified by a separate refugee registration conducted between July 2003 and January 2004 that gave UNHCR up-to-date information on refugee families, including the children’s biographical data.