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Conflicts in Iraq, Syria leave one-year-old without nationality

Publisher: The Times of India
Author: Srinath Vudali
Story date: 20/09/2015
Language: English

HYDERABAD: The turmoil of war-torn Syria and Iraq has now reached here. Apart from the terrible news streaming daily from back home, one couple who came to Hyderabad to study is facing an added ordeal: Their one year-old baby girl who was born in India is left without a nationality.

While Indian rules do not grant her automatic citizenship, the two war-torn nations are in no position to grant one.

Mais Sbeih, a research scholar in Osmania University, came to do her Masters in English in 2009 and stayed on to pursue a PhD. While studying she fell in love with Ahmed Ali, an Iraqi student of a private college. They married in 2013 and had a daughter Lily, now one-year-old.

"After getting married in 2009, we could not go back to either Iraq or Syria in view of the raging wars there," Sbeih said. " Now, we want to migrate to Europe, Lily would need a passport to travel. But the issue can be resolved only after her nationality is established," she added.

Sbeih, whose husband Ahmed Ali is now in Iraq, said she first approached the Iraqi authorities in New Delhi. "However, they said Lily will be granted a passport only if we take her to my husband's native village in Iraq and apply from there," she said.

Sources told TOI that in order to get an Indian passport, Lily would need an Indian citizenship first- which is a long-drawn process. "The parents will need to submit all relevant documents and a citizenship will be considered only after that. If Lily is granted Indian citizenship, she can then be eligible for an Indian passport," ministry of external affairs sources said.

According to Sbeih, Ali has returned to Iraq in desperation and with the aim of earning money, since no one was willing to employ him. "Our funds dried up couple of years ago as our relatives, who used to send us money, were displaced or got killed. Those who we got in touch with in Iraq and Syria warned us not to return. As a result, we do not have money even for completing my PhD," Sbeih said.

"Now, many like us who came to India from Iraq and Syria to study are seeking refugee status. But I want to be recognised as an immigrant and not a refugee," she said.

There are others like them. One such person is Iraqi national Raad Kasim Yhya (51) who recently applied for refugee status with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) office in Delhi. "I completed my PhD in chemistry from Mysore University. I wanted to go back to Mosul in Iraq but it is now completely in the control of IS. And because of the atrocities committed by them, my family has strictly told me not to return," Kasim said.

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