Stateless children: story of Yerbol

Stateless children: story of Yerbol

UNICEF in Kazakhstan
Children without citizenhsip
07 November 2018

At the tender age of ten, Yerbol already knows what it feels like to be invisible to the state. His mother Zhamilya could not get a birth certificate for her son born in Shymkent because she lacked necessary documents. Thus, from the first days of his life, Yerbol was left without state support – he has not had access to either free medical services or education. No document means no person.

«Luckily, Yerbol has never been sick, so there was no need to go to the clinic. Yet, all these years, he has not been vaccinated. And by the time he had to go to school he was not accepted because of the absence of a birth certificate and an IIN (individual identification number)», says Zhamilya.

In 2002, Zhamilya together with her mother and sisters moved from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan. Being an ethnic Kazakh, Zhamilya was going to get registered as a repatriate. Because she did not know the rules and laws, she did not apply for Kazakhstan citizenship immediately. When she finally decided to do it the procedures turned out to be too complicated, and she did not have enough finances to resolve the issue.

Zhamilya has three children in a commonlaw marriage. Her two older children received birth certificates, as her Uzbek passport was valid at the time. However, when Yerbol was born, the passport had already expired, and she could not issue a new one. Only then did Zhamilya learn that without a new passport she could not receive a birth certificate for her son.

«I went to the migration police to find out how to retrieve documents, but they scolded me for not submitting the documents in time and threatened me with a fine. They even said that they could arrest me for the violation of the rules. I burst into tears, got frightened and gave up going there», says Zhamilya.

She had to go through many difficulties due to the lack of documents, and getting any certificate was a real problem. By the time Yerbol had to go to school, Zhamilya faced another problem. The school did not accept her son without personal documents. She did not know what to do and decided to postpone her son's studies for a year. Nevertheless, a year later, the school's response did not change.

Having overcome her fears Zhamilya decided to go to the migration police again, where she was referred to the district police department. There, she saw a poster with information about NGO «Legal Center of Women's Initiatives «Sana Sezim».

Since 2016, this NGO has been implementing a program to support stateless persons. Zhamilya learned that people in a difficult life situation, who become stateless or lose documents, can turn to this NGO for help. The NGO lawyer accompanied Zhamilya to the hospital, retrieved Yerbol's birth confirmation from the archive and helped to get his birth certificate. While the documents were being prepared, the boy started school with the help of the Department of Education. The NGO also helped Zhamilya to process all required documents to get a stateless person's certificate. NGO representatives note that Yerbol's story is not unique. Now Yerbol is in the third grade, although his peers are already in the fifth grade. «I wish I could study with my peers, and I feel ashamed of studying with children younger than me», Yerbol says.  

Yerbol's mother encourages him and says that now he will be able to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. When Yerbol went out to play with his friends, Zhamilya admitted that she felt guilty for the suffering her son endured because of the adults' mistakes.

«Children have the right to go to school regardless of their migration status. In such cases, it should be simply stated that the child is a non-resident,» said a representative of the Department of Education in Shymkent. However, as the NGO's lawyer explains, not all schools accept children without an IIN, and indeed, parents must contact the Department of Education, but not all are aware of it. Having received a refusal from school, many simply give up trying. In addition, with the introduction of the electronic diary, it is mandatory to enter a child's IIN there. In the future, children without an IIN will not be able to get the secondary education diploma or to enroll in higher education institutions; they may also encounter problems with formal employment.  

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Article 7 1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. 2. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

Article 8 1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. 2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to reestablishing speedily his or her identity.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with the financial support of the European Union is working for protection of children affected by migration. The goal of the program is to strengthen mechanisms of supporting and protecting the rights of children affected by migration. Main focus areas of the program in Kazakhstan:  improving protection mechanisms and case management for children affected by migration considering the best interests of the child and prioritizing family-based care;  enhancing training of social workers, law enforcement and migration officers; strengthening national legislation and data collection on children affected by migration.