12/19/2014, 00.00
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Syrian refugees in Lebanon face new challenge, children "without citizenship or rights"

UN agencies and NGOs warn that more and more children born in families fleeing the war are likely to remain stateless. Some 70 per cent of the 42,000 children born in Lebanon to Syrian parents since the outbreak of the conflict have not been registered. However, the figure could be far higher. Poverty and lack of identity papers aggravate the problem.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Nearly 30,000 Syrian children born as refugees in Lebanon are in a legal limbo, not registered with any government, exposing them to the risk of a life of statelessness deprived of basic rights.

International NGOs and agencies like the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warn that this problem affects, to varying degrees across different Mideast nations, more than 3.3 million Syrians who found safe haven from the intractable civil war in their homeland.

They note that the life of a stateless person leads to an existence without a nationality, without citizenship, without the basic documents that establish an individual's identity and give him or her the rights accorded everyone else.

Experts caution that without a birth certificate, identity papers or other documents, even basic things like getting married, going to school or finding a job can be next to impossible.

In view of this, the United Nations launched last month a major campaign to try to end statelessness for an estimated 10 million people around the world within 10 years.

Syria's civil war is one of the major trouble spots, with more than 3 million people who fled to neighbouring countries to escape the bloodshed.

An estimated 70 per cent of the 42,000 children born to Syrian parents in Lebanon since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011 remain off the books, and that figure only relates to the 1.1 million refugees registered with UNHCR. Lebanese officials estimate that another 500,000 Syrians are in the country unregistered, many with children.

Practical problems hamper the registration process: things like the lack of money (most refugees are poor and cannot afford to pay the registration fee), the lack of identity papers and time constraints on working parents.

The problem is compounded by the fact that, in many cases, the medical staff involved in births are not certified and therefore are not authorised to issue a birth certificate.

Since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad began in 2011, more than 3.3 million people left Syria with other 7.6 million internally displaced. At least 200,000 people have been killed, many of them civilians.

As Syria's civil war dragged on, the militant group Islamic State (IS) emerged in the spring 2013 with all its violence and brutality.  

Since then, it has seized large portions of Syrian and Iraqi territory, where it began to impose a virtual reign of terror.

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