Israel to Stop Issuing Birth Certificates to Children of Foreigners

Plan emerges during appeal by Association for Civil Rights in Israel against previous changes to birth certificates.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The state plans to cease issuing birth certificates to children of foreigners born in Israel, thereby depriving them of any official government document confirming their birth. The lack of such a document could cause serious problems later in life, when moving to another country, getting married or even attending college.

The new policy, revealed in a brief filed by the state with the High Court of Justice on Monday, will require foreigners to make do instead with the handwritten birth notices issued by hospitals. But these notices aren’t official government documents.

The government said it is making this change because it fears migrants might exploit official birth certificates to try to obtain legal status in Israel. But the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the change would cause children disproportionate harm.

The birth certificates issued to children of foreigners – meaning everyone from diplomats to asylum seekers to legal and illegal foreign workers – were never the same as those issued to Israeli citizens or residents. About a year ago, however, the state made two additional changes in these documents: It stopped listing the name of the child’s father, and started listing the mother’s maiden name as the child’s surname.

ACRI and two other organizations, the Hotline for Migrant Workers and Physicians for Human Rights, petitioned the High Court against the changes on behalf of a Congolese couple and their baby daughter. The court is slated to hear that petition next Sunday, so this week, the state filed its response.

In its brief, the state announced that it not only doesn’t plan to change its policy, but it intends to stop issuing official birth certificates to foreigners entirely. It said it has no legal obligation to do so, and is concerned that illegal migrants might exploit these documents to claim the right to stay in Israel.

Since it intends to stop issuing birth certificates, the state is examining whether hospital birth notices could be altered to make them more serviceable overseas. Inter alia, the brief said, it is considering requiring these notices “to include details of the claimant to paternity, while explicitly stating that what is recorded in the notice is based solely on a declaration” rather than on official data.

It is also considering requiring hospitals to type the data into a computerized form, rather than writing it by hand, and to include an English translation, both of which would make the documents easier to use abroad.

As for the issue of the father’s name, the state said that listing the father on an official document is tantamount to granting legal recognition of his paternity, which shouldn’t be done solely on the basis of the couple’s say-so due to the serious legal ramifications.

“Determining paternity is liable to determine the status of father and child in civil law on matters such as inheritance, child support, custody, conversion, names, citizenship, residency, registration in the Population Registry and more,” the brief explained.

The father’s name will still be recorded on the hospital birth notice on the basis of the couple’s say-so, the brief continued, but if the parents want official recognition of the man’s paternity, they will have to apply to the embassy of their country of origin.

In June, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child voiced concern over this decision, saying the state is obliged to give migrants’ children an official birth certificate that lists both parents’ names.

“A child without an official birth certificate will find it hard to get ID documents in the future,” explained attorney Oded Feller of ACRI. “He’ll have trouble moving to other countries that demand a birth certificate as a condition for obtaining a long-term visa – for instance, for the purpose of studies or marriage.”

Even if hospital birth notices are typed and translated into English, they still won’t be an official state document, so the problem will remain unchanged, he added.

Feller also said that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has signed, requires states to issue birth certificates to foreigners, and rejected the claim that migrants could use these certificates to obtain legal status, since Israeli law doesn’t grant automatic citizenship to children of noncitizens who happen to be born here.

Migrant children eating in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

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