Failure by Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora to obtain birth certificates and national identity documents is depriving their children of the enjoyment of full rights and privileges, rendering them stateless.
The impact of such statelessness is that the concerned children are restricted from participating in the economy, accessing jobs, starting businesses and opening bank accounts, among other privileges. They are also poor, marginalised, discriminated against and politically excluded since they cannot vote.
This is contained in a position paper compiled by the Zimbabwe Peace Project as a result of research conducted in Binga, Chiredzi, Matobo, Mutasa and Mutoko districts on the challenges faced by citizens in the diaspora in acquiring birth certificates and national identity cards.
The research findings were shared via a webinar titled “Cursed with statelessness: Consequences of deprivation of national identification documents,” by ZPP researcher, Bekezela Gumbo.
According to the research, children born in the diaspora grow up without national registration as many of them have no birth records required at the Registrar General’s Office for the purpose of issuance of birth certificates. Failure to acquire birth certificates has in turn served as a barrier for them to acquire national identity and travel documents.
“In the absence of their biological parents, these children cannot be registered or assisted to get birth certificates by their guardians without birth records.
“The Director General’s office regulations require presentation of the child’s birth record, birth certificates and national identity documents of both spouses and witnesses who in most cases are always out of the country with their national identity documents fending for the parents and the child concerned,” Gumbo said.
The research showed that aged grandparents in their quest to acquire birth certificates for the grandchildren face challenges such as unavailability of funds to pay for the national registration fees, late birth registration penalty for children born in the diaspora and bus fare to transport guardians and witnesses (midwives) required by the Department of the Registrar General to issue a birth certificate.
The requirement of death certificates as preconditions for issuance of birth certificates makes it impossible for children who cannot produce such death certificates to be registered.
“Unregistered citizens who suffer this legal exclusion include children and grandchildren of grandparents who emigrated and whose whereabouts are unknown.”