Australia: Life in limbo: the Manus babies who face a stateless future

Ongoing issue:

The children of Manus Island refugees and local women are being denied birth certificates, according to their families, potentially leaving up to 39 of them stateless.

A number of refugee men detained in the Australian-run Manus Island regional processing centre and Papua New Guinean women started relationships as early as 2015, with some children born shortly after. The regional processing centre was shut down in 2017 but at least 750 refugee and asylum seeker men remain in the country, with 580 of those on Manus Island, according to UN high commissioner for refugees estimates from July.

“I just want a marriage certificate for my wife and I, birth certificates for our two babies, citizenship and an area where we can live,” Haroon Rashid, a 27-year-old Rohingyan refugee, says.

Rashid fled Myanmar because of ethnic cleansing by government forces and arrived in PNG in 2013. The following year he was found to be a refugee and married a 22-year-old Manusian woman, Molly Noan.

The couple says provincial authorities have refused to issue birth certificates for their two-year-old son, Mohammed, and 17-month-old daughter, Almeera.

In 2016, after their eldest child was born, they asked the Manus Island provincial administrator for documents but were told to get confirmation from the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority.

But the authority told the couple it was not its responsibility and referred the matter back to the Manus Island provincial government.

Rashid and Noan have given up trying to get these documents owing to what they say are continual delays and refusals. “Our marriage and life is aimless and our destiny is uncertain without him being a citizen,” Noan says.

The future remains unknown for these refugee and asylum seeker men without PNG citizenship, while others face a long wait for resettlement in third countries. Now their children face a risk of statelessness too, as they lack birth certificates to prove they were born and registered in PNG.

Experts warn that the denial of birth certificates violates the children’s international legal right to be registered immediately after birth.

“Denial of birth certificates is the first step to statelessness,” says Prof Hélène Lambert, an expert in international refugee law at the University of Wollongong.

She warns that the children could become exposed to further human rights violations that flow on from a lack of proper documentation: “This could result in a whole range of social, economic, civil and political rights being denied.”

….

“Lack of birth registration can create a risk of statelessness, which is heightened in certain circumstances where a child is born to migrant or refugee parents, or belongs to a minority community that struggles to have its ties to the state recognised,” she says.

….

The Australian government has refused to confirm reports that the children of refugee men and local woman have been denied birth certificates. “This is a matter for the government of PNG,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said in a one-sentence statement.

Source: Life in limbo: the Manus babies who face a stateless future

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: