MARCH organized a highly successful high-level consultative meeting entitled “Lebanese Stateless: Challenges and Solutions” in collaboration with the General Directorate of Personal Status at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to address the issue of Lebanese statelessness. The meeting brought together several Members of Parliament, ambassadors, experts, policymakers, judges, lawyers, and representatives from various local and international organizations.
MARCH realized the importance of holding this meeting after conducting intense on-ground research, in which they have found that, to date, there is no official study that determines the accurate official number of unregistered individuals of Lebanese origin. On the contrary, most published articles combine the numbers of both foreign and Lebanese unregistered individuals, placing them in a single category.
To address this issue, MARCH collaborated with Siren Company to conduct a field study and survey in 2018-2019 to determine the number of unregistered individuals of Lebanese origin in Tripoli. The results indicated that the estimated number in Tripoli was around 2,200 and approximately 27,000 for Lebanon as a whole.
Through this study, it became evident that one of the reasons that challenges people to register their births after the one-year legal deadline is due to the slow administrative procedures and the inability to follow up on files. Consequently, we initiated a collaboration with the Director-General of the General Directorate of Personal Status, Colonel Elias Khoury, to develop and improve the civil registration offices through mechanization, which will facilitate data archiving and monitoring by the state.
Within this framework and the efforts of the association, in addition to the healthcare, psychological, and social services provided, MARCH established a legal department to offer legal consultations and represent several cases in court. MARCH also disseminated legal awareness in this field through social media platforms and awareness sessions held at our cultural centers. Through this department, we aim not only to raise legal awareness but also to highlight the difficulties faced in courts, particularly in terms of lengthy trials, lawsuit costs, and the challenge of obtaining necessary documents.
From this standpoint, it was crucial to resort to the law to find a solution to reduce the increasing number of unregistered individuals from Lebanese fathers. Therefore, we prepared a draft law as an initiative to address this issue in collaboration with the General Directorate of Personal Status at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, specifically with its Director-General, Colonel Elias Khoury, who expressed significant interest and provided substantial support and effort to develop this project.
A Highly Successful Consultative Meeting Stirs Solutions for the Lebanese Stateless
Mrs. Lea Baroudi, the General Coordinator and Co-Founder of MARCH Association delivered an opening speech where she brought attention to the challenges faced by the Lebanese Stateless such as the deprivation of the right to nationality, access to services, education, employment, healthcare, freedom of movement and other civil and basic rights due to their parent’s failure to register them within the one-year legal deadline.
Mrs. Baroudi also highlighted MARCH’s initiatives, which have received support from the British Embassy in Lebanon, including conducting a comprehensive field survey and study on Lebanese stateless individuals in Tripoli (2019), in collaboration with Siren associates, as well as providing legal services, legal awareness sessions, and developing automation system in the General Directorate of Personal Status. Moreover, MARCH is collaborating with the General Directorate of Personal Status to develop an innovative draft law aimed at granting Lebanese identity to every legitimate child of a Lebanese father. Moreover, a short documentary report was presented, highlighting the challenges and firsthand testimonies of Lebanese stateless individuals.
In the first panel, researcher Elias Dahrouj from SIREN Associates delivered a presentation on the statistics and findings derived from their comprehensive studies on Lebanese statelessness in Tripoli (2019), Akkar (2021) Beirut, and Mount Lebanon (2023). He discussed common reasons for non-registration and presented the scientific estimate of 27,000 unregistered individuals of Lebanese origin.
In the beginning of the second panel, General Fawzi Chamoun, Head of the Bureau of Nationality, Passports, and Foreign Affairs and representative of the Director General of the General Directorate of General Security, emphasized that the General Security has always fulfilled its duties in addressing the issue of unregistered individuals and stressed the urgent need to provide recommendations and immediate solutions to tackle this significant problem, including reducing the referral of unregistered individuals, who are of Lebanese origin, to General Security investigations to alleviate the burden on the judiciary and General Security itself. He also emphasized the importance of awareness campaigns and establishing effective monitoring mechanisms for newborns. General Chamoun highlighted the need to improve coordination between hospitals and relevant official departments to ensure swift registration of births. He also stressed the importance of imposing fines or penalties on parents who fail to comply with the legal deadlines for registering their newborns.
During the second panel, Judge Rana Akkoum, Head of the Execution Court in Metn, provided valuable insights into the distinction between Lebanese statelessness and stateless individuals. She shed light on the challenges related to the lengthy judicial process, which led to the imposition of a final registration deadline to avoid possible delays. Judge Akkoum also emphasized that DNA testing, although costly, is important to establish legal parentage. She also identified situations where General Security investigations can be avoided to save time and alleviate the burden.
Representing the Beirut Bar Association, Me. Amin Al Kaddoum highlighted the root causes that lead parents to neglect registration within the one-year legal deadline. He linked this issue to a lack of awareness and education about the registration process itself and called on the media to allocate continuous awareness segments. Recognizing this gap, special committees were established within the Beirut Bar Association to provide legal consultations and collaborate with lawyers in courts to effectively address the issues of unregistered individuals and stateless individuals. He stated that these dedicated efforts aim to find practical solutions to the issue of unregistered individuals.
In the third panel, General Elias El Khoury, Director General of the Directorate General of Personal Status at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, presented a draft law that was prepared in collaboration with MARCH aimed at facilitating the registration of legitimate children born to Lebanese fathers and providing them with the necessary legal documents. General Khoury explained the key provisions of the draft law and its background without replacing the role of the judiciary. He emphasized the responsibility of the Public Prosecution and parents or legal guardians in submitting registration cases to the Directorate General of Personal Status. General Khoury stressed that the effectiveness of this draft law depends on the establishment of appropriate legal mechanism, raising awareness, and financial support to cover the DNA costs. To enhance awareness, he proposed developing a dedicated application to facilitate communication with unregistered individuals of Lebanese origin and increase awareness of the importance of registration.
Fruitful Discussions and Meeting Closure
In conclusion, the Members of Parliament, representatives of associations and international organizations, lawyers, and heads of mokhtar associations actively participated in fruitful discussions. They unanimously agreed on the urgency of expediting the legislative process and passing the proposed law in Parliament, as it would accelerate the guarantee of rights and essential services for unregistered individuals. The participants emphasized the importance of leveraging the support of international organizations to secure funding and resources, as well as national organizations and media to raise awareness and effectively address the issue of Lebanese statelessness.
MARCH expressed sincere appreciation to all participants, including Members of Parliament, politicians, British Embassy in Lebanon, judges, lawyers, representatives of national and international organizations, and the media, for their contributions, participation, and willingness to collaborate in finding sustainable solutions to the issue of unregistered individuals of Lebanese origin.
For further inquiries, please contact Ghinwa Zahoui – Legal Coordinator, at [email protected], or 81712120 / 81318894.