Campaign for Unregistered Children in SUMOUD Camp
The SUMOUD Camp has become the permanent home of approximately 250 children. Many of these children have not been granted legal recognition as Jerusalem residents by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. They are facing not only the material and emotional hardships of camp life, but also lack access to Israeli public health and welfare services - a serious set-back given their families' limited financial means. Thinking about their future as teen-agers and grown-ups causes a strong feeling of uncertainty, because as unregistered children they will not be issued Jerusalem ID cards when they reach the age of 16. They will thus be forced to leave their hometown for another, yet unknown place.
An investigation of the phenomenon of unregistered children in the SUMOUD Camp conducted by BADIL Alternative Information Center on behalf of the Lobby for Palestinian Women's Rights in Jerusalem in February 1998 revealed the large scope of this problem. Detailed personal information gathered from 16 families in the camp showed that 55 of their 67 children do not hold official Israeli birth certificates, none of them receive public welfare services (Israeli National Insurance), and only 30 of them have access to private health insurance. This despite the fact that all children have at least one parent who is a legal resident of Jerusalem.
Unregistered Palestinian Children in Jerusalem - Background
Unregistered children, i.e. children without an Israeli birth certificate and therefore without a Jerusalem ID card in the future, have been one of the major problems related to Palestinian residency rights in Jerusalem since the introduction of restrictive registration procedures by the Israeli Interior Ministry in 1982. At that time, the Ministry notified East Jerusalem hospitals that specially prepared hospital documents which are the basis for registration with Israel's population registry would be processed only if the new-born child's FATHER was a resident of Jerusalem. Jerusalem mothers whose husbands were not residents of the city were instructed to register their child outside of the city, with the population registry of the child's father. The result was a drastic increase in the number of children, born and raised in Jerusalem, who were registered in other West Bank towns or not registered at all.In 1992, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations intervened on the families behalf. The Interior Ministry then agreed, based on the Israeli law, to accept applications for child registration by Jerusalem mothers, if the latter contained the written consent by the child's father and documentation of the family's presence in the city. However, since the Interior Ministry refused to publicize this new policy, child registration by Jerusalem mothers remained an option for the few well informed and able to obtain a lawyer's assistance.
The problem of unregistered children sky-rocketed in 1996, following the introduction of the policy of ID card confiscation. Since then, the Interior Ministry has canceled the Jerusalem resident status of approximately 1,300 East Jerusalem Palestinians, parents of some 4,000 children, and continues to investigate the status of hundreds of additional families. Many of these families have sought legal assistance and filed appeals against the confiscation of their ID cards. Until their case is decided by the Israeli authorities, the rights of their children as legal residents of Jerusalem will remain in limbo.
In the framework of the support campaign conducted by the Lobby for Palestinian Women's Rights in Jerusalem, the cases of 10 families (50 children) were adopted by BADIL's legal aid department during a work visit in the camp on Friday, 20 February 1998. BADIL's lawyer will work to obtain legal registration for these children, based on the ground that they were born in Jerusalem to parents, at least one of whom is a resident of the city.
In the meantime, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an Israeli human rights organization with expertise in matters of Israeli health insurance, has promised to study the case of the SUMOUD Camp children and to facilitate their access to public health services.
The Lobby for Palestinian Women's Rights in Jerusalem demands the immediate recognition of SUMOUD Camp as the legal and official address of its residents by the Israeli authorities - just as in the past recognition and municipal services were provided to the tent camps of the homeless Israeli poor in the city. SUMOUD Camp residents are Jerusalemites, SUMOUD Camp is on the map of this city.