Pilot birth registration launched for Sama-Bajaus
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2019 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — More than 200 Sama-Bajaus were issued birth certificates on Tuesday in a program launched by the local government here and United Nations (UN)-based agencies, with the goal of saving tribe members from being stateless.

The birth records program is a pilot birth registration project spearheaded by the local government and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Members of the Sama-Bajaus tribe face documentation issues due to their itinerant way of life and generations of nonregistration among families.

It is thought that there are 10,000 Sama-Bajaus living in Zamboanga alone, around 85 percent of them without birth certificates.

UNHCR and UNICEF are providing technical assistance to the project under the UNHCR-UNICEF Joint Strategy for Addressing Childhood Statelessness.

The Philippines, a signatory to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, has identified the Sama-Bajaus as a population at risk of statelessness.

After a series of consultations with Sama-Bajau communities, UNHCR arrived at a recommendation to conduct birth registration to address their documentation issues, said UNHCR representative Shinji Kubo.                                 

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