"Apply diplomatic pressure on countries to grant birth rights to children born abroad from Nepali migrant women"
KATHMANDU, MARCH 8
Priya (name changed) a single mother, returned home to Nepal with a child she had given birth to in United Arab Emirates, with the hopes of providing identity to her offspring who had been denied birth registration in the country of her child's birth.
To her dismay, she was turned away by local authorities who said it would not be possible to register her child's birth in Nepal citing lack of provision in the existing laws.
When questioned about Priya's predicament, an official at the Citizenship Division under the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the current citizenship act needs to be amended by the Parliament or the Supreme Court to ensure that a child can be granted citizenship via his/her mother. "However, the case is still under consideration at the court," he added.
"As of now, neither have we received an application of such nature nor are we aware of local authorities issuing citizenship in such cases," the official said on condition of anonymity.
This lapse in regulation and delay in addressing the issue has rendered at least 200 children stateless and deprived them of basic rights.
The statistics provided by Paurakhi Nepal, AMKAS Nepal, Maiti Nepal and Ministry of Foreign Affairs support the aforementioned claim regarding the statelessness of children, while the number could be even larger as many such cases never come to the surface.
Manju Gurung, co-founder and strategic adviser at POURAKHI Nepal, said, "We have been providing rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation facilities to such women who return to Nepal."
According to her, majority of women who fall prey to human trafficking stay in the shelter before returning to their respective home districts.
In response to the question on plight of Priya and many such women, Dhan Bahadur Oli, director general at the Department of Consular Services, said his office had not yet received any request from local authorities verifying the origin of birth of such children to process their birth registration in Nepal. "If we receive request of such nature, we will coordinate with the Nepali mission in the concerned country to ascertain the documents and issue one-time travel document to enter Nepal," said Oli.
Meanwhile, Narayan Prasad Bhattarai, director general at the Department of Immigration, said that travellers were allowed to enter Nepal on the basis of their travel document. "We do not have any data related to the aforementioned cases in our database."
The issue has been raised even at the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, but any significant development is yet to be seen.
While some authorities are clear regarding the state's role and responsibility in dealing with cases of such sensitive nature, it is unfortunate that there are no laws in place to address them.
Milan Dharel, executive director at National Child Rights Council under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizenship, said, 'It is indeed the state's duty to provide protection to every child living in Nepal. The government will take full responsibility of children who are born to Nepali migrant women workers under difficult circumstances abroad."
If the troubled women approach us with detailed documents and declare that they are unable to raise their children, the state will take full responsibility, expedite the process of their birth registration and eventually ensure they are granted citizenship certificate, after verification of the said documents.
The government will take care of the children and process all their documents even if their mother wishes to take custody, Dharel elaborated.
Charimaya Tamang, founder of Shakti Samuha, stressed that the government must set up legal aid to help returnee victim migrant workers to fight for justice. "The state must expedite legal procedure and ensure these women's safety while fighting against human trafficking."
The authorities from respective countries remain positive, but lack of diplomatic efforts from the government has failed to make the countries of origin serious about the issue.
With regard to law enforcement agencies' response to the issue of trafficking and its after-effects, Bishow Raj Pokharel, additional inspector general of Nepal Police said, "No one will be spared, whoever is involved in this heinous crime will be brought to book even if they are operating from abroad."
Furthermore, he urged the victims to come forward and file their complaints with police to bring the perpetrators behind bars.
However, security agencies have no answer to the question of trafficking happening in the first place, and their failure to track it as it happens. Additionally, the issue is larger than it appears as trafficking is one side of the coin, while the helpless state of trafficked victims, especially those that take the risk of being transported to strange lands full of uncertainties owing to their dire circumstances is another story altogether.
Although the state must step in and take the responsibility of ensuring rights to the 'forgotten children', Anuradha Koirala, founder of Maiti-Nepal and CNN Hero 2010, lamented that the government was not doing enough to address the issue. "Until the state authorities make this a national issue, the problem is here to stay".
With little opportunities, high unemployment rate, inflation, and illiteracy, these women are forced to take perilous journeys to faraway lands to earn bread and butter for their families back home.
They return to struggle for their offsprings, as there is no country for migrant children.