Zimbabwe: Country Report
Source: Asylum Research Centre for UNHCR
October 2022 (COI between 1st January 2020 and 31st August 2022)
Background: This report presents Country of Origin Information (COI) on Zimbabwe focusing on a range of profiles identified to be of relevance in refugee status determination for Zimbabwean nationals.
VIII. Statelessness (since January 2020)
For detailed background information, an outline of the existing framework, as well as current analysis as of April 2021, see Amnesty International’s special report on statelessness in Zimbabwe, focusing on “migrants and descendants of victims of Gukurahundi”.
Access to identification documentation, including birth registrations
As way of background, the UN’s ‘Common Country Analysis’ explained with regards to documentation problems:
Although Mozambican asylum-seekers are profiled in the country’s humanitarian response, an estimated 6,546 living among Zimbabwean host communities in Manicaland province are yet to get biometric registration […] Children born in Zimbabwe to parents of indeterminate nationality are often denied the right to have their birth registered and to acquire Zimbabwean nationality, which impedes their access to health care, education, and other social services […].
In its annual human rights report covering 2021 – February 2022, Amnesty International reported:
“Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans were at risk of becoming stateless. They waited months to receive national registration documents from the Registrar General’s Office, due to a huge backlog of applications”.705 In its report on statelessness in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International described in April 2021 the administrative barriers to obtain Zimbabwean citizenship: “Those lacking identity documents in Zimbabwe face challenging problems. They are necessary to access services, for personal and professional development, and to claim one’s rights. Birth certificates serve as the primary form of identification for all citizens […] Numerous administrative hurdles frustrate people’s efforts to obtain Zimbabwean citizenship. Many marginalized descendants of migrant farm workers are still required to renounce citizenship of their country of origin because of the non-existence of enabling legislation related to the current Zimbabwean Constitution which allows for dual citizenship. In February 2019, the Zimbabwean cabinet approved amendments to the Zimbabwe Citizenship Act to allow dual citizenship in order to align it with the 2013 Constitution. However, as of the time of writing, these were still to be tabled in parliament”. Specifically it identified these hurdles:
- Birth registration at the heart of identity
- Prohibitive distance to registration offices
- Treatment at registration offices
- Bureaucratic failures lead[ing] to denial of citizenship.
The U.S. Department of State reported in its annual report covering 2021: “Marginalized ethnic groups that lived along the country’s borders, such as the Doma and Kanyemba, were perceived to be from neighboring countries and thus unable to obtain documentation on either side of the border”.
Following her visit to Zimbabwe in October 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights highlighted that:
Access to identification documents was also a challenge. The Government reported a backlog of approximately 500,000 identification documents because of the inability to secure the right equipment and because of supply-chain disruptions due to the refusal of companies to cooperate with governmental institutions, citing sanctions. Challenges in procuring passports certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization were also reported, owing to overcompliance, as 90 per cent are exported from third countries. The lack of access to identification documents has a direct impact on the delivery of social and health services, as well as the management of crime. The smuggling of passports is also increasingly being reported, as cross-border migration flows intensify the demand for passports.
In its concluding observations published on 16 September 2022, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted:
The Committee is concerned by reports that, despite the simplified registration process introduced by the State party, survivors and descendants of victims of the atrocities perpetrated by government forces in the 1980s are often unable to apply for birth certificates and national identity documents because they cannot produce the birth certificates or other identity documents of their deceased parents. The Committee is also concerned by reports that members of ethnolinguistic minority groups face particular difficulties in obtaining civil registration documents, due to high illiteracy and poverty levels, language barriers, lack of awareness of the importance of registration and a high rate of home births among such groups, as well as the long distances and costs of travel to the general offices of the Department of the Registrar. The Committee is further concerned that persons without identification documents are prevented from realizing their rights under article 5 of the Convention, including with respect to access to education, maternal and other health care and the government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination programme (art. 5).
UNHCR’s report of December 2020 on citizenship and statelessness noted that “there are still people affected by the Gukurahundi conflict of the early 1980s in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, who are unable to obtain identity documents because their family members were killed and documents destroyed at that time […] Natural disasters may also cause problems. The hearings conducted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission during 2019 found that large numbers of citizens were left without any form of identification after tropical Cyclone Idai ravaged eastern parts of Manicaland province earlier that year […] Without these documents statelessness becomes a risk, if records are not sufficient to re-establish identity, and additional requirements for proof of identity are imposed upon those whose nationality is caused into question”
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