Human Lives Human Rights: There are currently thousands of children in the UAE, and especially in the Emirate of Dubai, who are deprived of schooling and access to any medical services, as they have no birth certificates.
Many of the children are without birth certificates because they were born without married parents, because their families could not pay hospital bills, or for other reasons, the report says, quoting residents.
“My sons have not been to school; they don’t have a visa or a passport. It is a very big issue. They cry – they really want to go to school,” Chinwe, a Nigerian immigrant who could not pay a $16,000 medical bill, said.
Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the UAE, the vast majority of them being low-paid workers from underdeveloped countries.
Babies of single mothers are largely refused birth certificates although premarital sex has been recently legalized in the Gulf country.
This is not a new or rare occurrence in UAE hospitals. This has led to an increase in the number of undocumented children in this country and other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the most important consequences of which are deprivation of schooling and access to medical and health services as a citizen.
Human rights activists estimate that thousands of children, many of whom are the children of African and Asian migrant workers, are without identity proofs due to the UAE hospitals, which did not provide birth certificates to these children in the country.
According to the report, two senior Philippine government officials said that just within the country’s Filipino migrant community, the number of undocumented children runs in the thousands.
This comes at a time when the UAE is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of personal wealth and oil revenues, and most of its citizens and white-collar immigrants benefit from education in schools and universities, as well as a variety of health and medical services, but children without identity in this country, are deprived of the simplest and most basic human services, even vaccinations.
This situation has caused the parents of these children to be always worried and scared, and they rarely leave their homes or residences for fear that there will be a problem in the city and that they will be dealt with by the police and security forces.
While it is illegal for hospitals to withhold birth documentation over unpaid bills, the practice often goes unchallenged because, some parents said, they are afraid to alert the police and face legal consequences over their debts.
“This is blackmailing and hijacking somebody’s identity,” said Ludmila Yamalova, a Dubai-based lawyer.
The pandemic has made the problem more urgent. Job losses have left migrants struggling to meet basic needs. Yet those with stateless children are unable to return home because they lack documents.
Meanwhile, these children are growing up in the shadows of UAE society, their futures uncertain.