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Mozambique, 11 April 2013: One step at a time - UNICEF and UNHCR join forces to help stateless in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique/2013/Neidi de Carvalho
"The lack of civil documentation is a serious problem for returned refugees" says Veriato Eduardo, head of the Administrative Post of Colomue.

Maputo, 11 April 2013 -  A high number of people in our locality have no form of identification, says Veriato Eduardo, an administrator in Angonia in Northwestern Mozambique near the Malawi border. This prevents them from registering their children in schools and from expanding their small businesses. In this part of the country, a high number of adults are returned refugees, who lost their documentation during the civil war, and have therefore been left stranded.  

The Civil War in Mozambique, which ended in 1992, forced many to flee to safety in neighboring countries. Most did not take any identity documents with them, and were never able to find them upon return home. Today, more than a decade later, they still face difficulties obtaining copies of their birth certificate, and this poses problems when registering their children for school enrolment, for example.

"There is no civil registration service in Colomue, and people are forced to go to the capital of the district for such documents," says Mr. Eduardo. The process is complicated.

In order to obtain formal identification, the leader of the community has to sign a declaration that attests that the person is in fact a returned refugee, which in turn is signed by the head of the locality and head of the administrative post. The returnee must then take the signed declaration to the capital of the district and be interviewed so as to assess the veracity of his/her story.

The traveling costs for such an undertaking, from the village to the locality and then to the capital, are prohibitive for most people in these areas, who are farmers living hand to mouth.  

Within the One UN approach in Mozambique, funds have now been mobilized for a joint UNICEF/UNHCR project in Tete province to register such stateless persons. In April this year, a team from UNICEF, UNHCR and the National Directorate of Registry and Notary visited Tete to present the project to the local government and assess the situation of statelessness in the three bordering districts of Magoe, Angonia and Moatize. The One UN Initiative will ensure that these persons are able to obtain their birth certificate, register their children and access social economic initiatives. Experienced civil registrars will form mobile brigades that will interview and register all eligible returned refugees in the area, giving them a second chance at full citizenry.

"A birth certificate is the first right of a child, thus it is important to ensure that all adults have access to it, as well, because it will have a ripple effect on future generations," says Neidi de Carvalho, an officer responsible for the civil registration programme at UNICEF Mozambique.

Veriato Eduardo agrees.

"This will greatly simplify the lives of these persons," he says. "They will once more become full Mozambican citizens, and will be able to access all services that are available to them."

For more information, please contact:

Patricia Nakell, UNICEF Mozambique
Tel: +258 82 312 1820; Email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique
Tel. (+258) 21 481 100; Email:



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