UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with its partners has provided legal assistance to help more than two and a half thousand Iraqis displaced as a result of the Mosul offensive receive new civil identity cards and other documents that were lost, damaged or destroyed as they fled their homes seeking safety.
As many as 49% of displaced Iraqis interviewed by UNHCR protection partners were found to need help in getting new civil documentation. Many families lost documents or their papers were damaged as they fled conflict zones. Other families were told that birth and marriage documents, which had been issued when their areas were under the control of armed groups, were not legally recognised by the government of Iraq and needed replacement.
Civil identity cards are vital for Iraqi citizens to be able to travel and pass through checkpoints to access safe areas. In addition, these cards are required for families to be able to access public services, such as food assistance, education, healthcare and housing assistance.
“It took considerable time and effort to help displaced families with new documentation”, said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq. “Our teams and partners have had to adopt some innovative methods and advocate tirelessly in order to get around some of the difficulties and lengthy bureaucratic requirements”, he said.
“People have been in a legal limbo. While there is still a lot of work, we have managed to help thousands of people to obtain legal documents and the mobile court facilities have been an important part of this success. We urge the authorities to expand this modality to other areas.”
UNHCR protection teams have worked with partners Qandil, Harikar NGO, CDO (Civil Development Organisation) and INTERSOS, who have provided legal assistance through lawyers to facilitate issuance of required documents to displaced Iraqis.
Movement restrictions for IDPs from Mosul prevent individuals from leaving camps, which hinders their direct access to the Civil Affairs Offices or courts in order to replace or apply for new documents. In the camps east of Mosul, a mobile court had been operating at Khazer M1 camp and the two Hasansham camps, to assist with the issuance of new documents related to birth, death, marriage and divorce. A notary also visits the camps to issue power of attorney that allows the lawyers to act on behalf of IDPs in a legal process.
Additionally, a representative from the Ninewa Health Institute has been visiting the camps to help issue birth certificates for new-born children and replace birth certificates issued under the control of armed groups.
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