Refugee twins among the first to receive birth certificates in Tanzania

Zeomary, a Burundian refugee, is a mother of seven and has been living in Nduta camp for the past five years

As Zeomary Rudashi rushes towards the registration centre in Tanzania’s Nduta refugee camp, her excitement is palpable. Today is a special day and not even the heat of the sun can dull her mood.

She leans forward to balance the weight of one of her twins, tied snugly on her back and urges on her seven-year-old daughter, who is carrying the other baby.

“Today is a great day for Belyce and Jaqueline who are only three weeks old,” she says with a broad smile as she joins the queue. “They will get birth certificates. I feel like they belong somewhere.”

Zeomary, a Burundian refugee, is a mother of seven and has been living in Nduta camp for the past five years. She fled Burundi’s political upheaval in 2015, finding refuge in Tanzania. Since she left her family’s belongings and documents behind, she often worries that her children may not be recognized as Burundians and risk becoming stateless.

But thanks to a birth registration exercise, led by Tanzania’s Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), the Ministry of Home Affairs,  the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council and other stakeholders, Zumary’s three children who were born in Tanzania will receive legal documentation, together with some 13,500 other refugee children under five years. This is the first time that such an exercise includes refugee children like Zumary’s.

The #IBelong Campaign aims to end statelessness by 2024 and is commemorating its sixth anniversary this year. World leaders are urged to include and protect stateless populations and make bold and swift moves to eradicate statelessness.

Zeomary during the birth certificate registration process.

UNHCR’s Representative in Tanzania, Antonio Jose Canhandula, has applauded the Tanzanian Government’s move to include refugees in the initiative. “The right to a name, identity and registration at birth is a right for all children,” he said. “This positive development will confer important legal protections on them.”

He added that while the lack of birth registration itself does not make children stateless, its absence can hamper the ability of people to prove their descent and place of birth, which are the two main elements to establish an entitlement to the nationality of any State.

The registration exercise, which took place in Nduta camp as a pilot, will soon be rolled out in Mtendeli and Nyarugusu camps. In total, some 55,000 children who lack official birth certificates will benefit.“My lucky twins have certainly come with blessings to the community. “I can’t wait to show my husband the documents,” she beams.

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees