SIDON, Lebanon: Personal Status Departments in south Lebanon are implementing stricter measures by closely checking the birth certificates for newborn Syrians, to ensure that they aren’t forgeries to be used for illicit purposes. Similar measures are being applied for the death certificates of Syrian refugees by the departments, which are administered by the Interior Ministry.
The governor of South Lebanon, Nicholas Abu Daher, is expected to hold a meeting with the mukhtars in his jurisdiction early next week to go over the necessary steps and measures relating to the issuance of the certificates. The first step in registering newborns begins with the mukhtar, who must fill out an application and refer it to relevant ministerial departments.
Relief sources told The Daily Star that over five babies were born daily among the Syrian and Palestinian refugee community in the south. The sources said that in addition to mukhtars, hospitals, birthing centers and midwives should be careful when issuing documents, as they bear legal responsibilities should authorities find them faulty.
“All mukhtars in Sidon are double-checking documents issued by the hospital [to record a birth] and accordingly filling out the necessary application to issue birth certificates,” the mukhtar of the neighborhood of Dakraman, Mohammad Baasiri, told The Daily Star.
He said mukhtars typically registered a newborn by asking the father for documents issued by the hospital, the birthing center or a midwife recording the birth. The document must include the name of the father and mother, the date of birth, the sex of the baby and the signature of the doctor or midwife present during delivery.
“We also ask the father and mother for their IDs, as well as their entrance permits that were stamped by General Security when they entered Lebanon. If they entered under extraordinary circumstances, then we only ask them for their IDs,” Baasiri said.
The mukhtars then fill out the application for the birth certificate, which is then sent to the Syrian Embassy and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, so that Syrian authorities can issue an ID for the newborn.
Sources well acquainted with the issue told The Daily Star that there were mounting concerns that the births and deaths of Syrian refugees, combined with the lag in registration, might be exploited by forgers and gang members.
“We fear that the IDs of the dead people might be stolen, and that there are gangs who work by selling and trading newborn infants,” the source said. “That’s why parents and public authorities should apply stricter measures.”
In a recent report, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees warned that unregistered refugee children could face increased risks of exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation. In Lebanon, an estimated 10,000 Syrian refugee children will be registered by the end of 2013.
The report confirmed that registration levels were low, with one survey revealing that 77 percent of 781 newborns did not have official birth certificates.
The Personal Status Department issued guidelines in May 2013 to address this, but the practice has not been uniformly applied, with some refugees resorting to illegal practices to obtain a birth certificate, after finding official registration channels too complicated. This includes incidents of some refugees enlisting their relatives in Syria to fraudulently register babies delivered in Lebanon as having been born in Syria.