Paperless people of post-conflict IraqDuring the conflict with the Islamic State group (IS), 6 million Iraqi citizens were forced to flee their homes. Since the end of the conflict, more than 4 million have returned home, while 1.7 million people still live in displacement. These families struggle to access basic services and face often insurmountable roadblocks to either returning home or rebuilding a life elsewhere, according to a new report from DRC, NRC and IRC.
Many, whether still in displacement or returned home, are unable to enjoy their rights as Iraqi citizens and fully engage in the recovery and reconstruction of post-conflict Iraq. A foundational reason for this is they do not have proof of their legal identity. Some people lost their documents as they fled their homes; others had them confiscated by various parties to the conflict; and yet others were issued IS documentation, which is of no value now.
These paperless people, as a result of lacking critical state-issued civil documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, nationality cards and civil IDs, find themselves denied human rights, barred from a range of public services and excluded from recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Local and international humanitarian agencies like the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have collectively helped tens of thousands of Iraqis over the last few years obtain, renew, or replace civil documents lost as a result of the most recent crisis. However, an estimated 80,000 families across the country still have family members missing at least one civil document. The number of children missing documents is likely much higher. At least 45,000 displaced children living in camps alone are estimated to be missing birth certificates. Without these essential civil papers, they are at risk of statelessness and find it incredibly difficult to access services such as education and healthcare.
This report, based on research conducted by DRC in partnership with NRC and IRC, through the Cash Consortium for Iraq (CCI) shows how a significant portion of Iraqi families living in urban areas formerly under IS control are being denied basic services because they are paperless. They are barred from accessing rights-based public services such as education, healthcare, the state justice system and social welfare.
Without significant efforts at both national and local levels to enable paperless Iraqis to obtain the civil documentation required to access public services, an entire segment of the Iraqi population living in areas formerly controlled by IS may be excluded from stabilisation efforts and reconstruction plans. This may create yet another generation of Iraqis that face exclusion and denial of their rights, potential undermining prospects for stability in formerly IS controlled areas and across Iraq. It is crucial that the challenges facing Iraqis’ access to documentation and subsequent access to services are addressed to ensure an inclusive recovery and reconstruction process.