An estimated 45,000 displaced children who were born under the rule of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) are being excluded from Iraqi society because the authorities deny them ID papers, an international charity group says.
The undocumented children -- most of whom are now in camps after IS lost control of the territory it held in Iraq -- are a “possible human time bomb,” Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said on April 30.
“Allowing these children to have an education, health care, simply the right to exist, is key to ensuring a sustainable future for them and for the country,” Egeland said.
In a report titled Barriers From Birth, the group said the Iraqi government considers their birth certificates invalid because they were issued by IS.
Most of the children were born in 2013 to 2017, when the extremist group controlled up to nearly one-third of Iraq. Others lost their documents as they fled during the conflict.
The report quoted a health official who said that without a valid birth certificate, children are unable to receive vaccinations in some areas, raising fears that diseases could be contracted and spread.
Children need ID documents to enroll in Iraqi schools, and documentation is also often required to obtain graduation certificates.
The report said that as the children reach adulthood, they risk being denied state-recognized marriages, owning property, or even being formally employed.
It is nearly impossible for children from families accused of affiliation with IS to obtain civil documentation in Iraq, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
“Children are not responsible for crimes committed by their relatives, yet many are denied their basic rights as Iraqi citizens,” Egeland said.
The advocacy group urged the Iraqi authorities to “ensure that undocumented children have the right to exist like any other Iraqi citizen” as a crucial step to guarantee the country’s road to recovery and reconstruction.