Source: Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, American University in Cairo
Migrants and asylum seekers in Egypt may lack identification papers for a number of reasons. Some have their documents lost or destroyed in the course of the conflict in their home countries, or by smugglers/traffickers during their journey to Egypt. The consequences for lacking identification can be severe and may include the risk of statelessness. Children of migrants also face the risk of statelessness as their parents’ identification documents are a prerequisite for the issuance of their birth certificates.
This report is based on the findings of a research project that investigated the identification needs of migrants in Egypt, chiefly focusing on birth registration of children born outside their parents’ country of nationality. The specific objective of the research was to understand the barriers that prevent recognition of, and respect for, the rights of children and adults to documents that officially confirm their identity and nationality.
The research was based on focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews conducted with members of the following six migrant/refugee communities in Egypt: Syrian, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Nigerian communities. FGDs were conducted with a total of 148 participants, and in-depth interviews with a total of 50 participants. Government officials as well as staff from international and local civil society organizations were also interviewed.
Discussions with research participants highlighted that the main challenges facing them in registering the births of their children in Egypt include the required submission of a valid marriage certificate, having to provide a valid residence permit at the time of registration, and having to register the birth within the 15-day time limit. The categories of participants who find it most difficult to register the births of their children or obtain alternative officially recognized identity documentation are: single mothers, those caring for abandoned children/foundlings, parents of children born outside Egypt who arrived without registering the birth in the country of origin, children of parents who have no documents, and finally, children born of rape.
Participants also cited a number of challenges relating to birth registration and the issuance and/or renewal of identification documents at consular authorities. Some of the common challenges mentioned by participants across all communities were the high fees required for the issuance/renewal of documents, that these required documents cannot be issued in Egypt in the first place, and the limited accessibility of embassies and consulates. Refugees and asylum seekers sometimes cannot, or are afraid to, approach their respective consulates. Some migrants with irregular status worry that approaching their consulates may jeopardize their status in Egypt. These barriers either prevent the registration of births with the relevant consulates or render the process more difficult.