Governments across Asia must register all children at birth to effectively address the issue of stateless people, says global child rights organisation Plan International.
Marking the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Plan has highlighted that stateless children are more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and violation of their basic rights.
“Birth registration is the first step in ensuring all children have legal existence and can enjoy their basic rights such as education and health care. Identity and nationality are a birth right of every child,” said Ming Viado, Plan’s Asia coordinator for Universal Birth Registration.
According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there are 12 million stateless people globally. Children who are not registered at birth are more likely to be rendered stateless as they are unable to prove their parentage or place of birth. The situation is worse for children who are born to stateless parents.
Each year 50 million of the world’s new born babies – two-third of them in Asia, remain unregistered. The reasons include lack of political will, inadequate infrastructure, low awareness among parents and high costs of obtaining a birth certificate. Discrimination based on gender and ethnicity is also one of the factors.
Plan has been working with governments to address the barriers to universal birth registration since 1998 and has facilitated the registration of about 27 million people in 13 countries in Asia. Despite these efforts, the number of unregistered children in the region remains high, especially among marginalised and excluded communities.
“In South Asia only a third of all children under five are registered at birth. Governments with low registration rates must put systems in place to make registration services accessible to all without any discrimination,” added Viado.
In northern Thailand, Plan works with local partners and communities, helping thousands of unregistered children obtain citizenship. There are an estimated one million stateless people in the country.
Maja Cubarrubia, Country Director of Plan in Thailand said: “Children and youth who weren’t registered at birth and have already been deprived of rights to education, healthcare and employment are vulnerable to being lured or forced into harmful activities, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation.”