Liberia has one of the lowest levels of birth registration in the world (25%). The outbreak of Ebola in 2014 resulted in a fall in registered births in the country. As a result, children born in Liberia are exposed to risks including statelessness, child marriage, child labor and denial of justice.
Further, gender bias still exists in the 1973 Liberia’s Alien and Nationality law. Liberian women cannot confer their citizenship to children born with non-Liberian fathers. Other groups at risk of statelessness include former Liberian refugees, members of minority ethnic groups and cross-border communities, and undocumented Liberian migrants.
Liberia is party to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, however, statelessness remains unaddressed in practice. The extremely low levels of birth registrations leave many children without birth certificates, which exposes them to the risk of statelessness, namely children of non-‘Negro’ residents, those born abroad to Liberian mothers and non-Liberian fathers, children of people who have entered the country illegally, and children of minority ethnic groups and cross-border communities. Further, the absence of qualitative and quantitative data makes stateless individuals extremely difficult to identify.
Further, although the Government of Liberia has granted citizenship to around 300 Sierra Leoneans, children born in these families have not yet obtained birth certificates.
Currently, the amended draft Alien and Nationality Law awaits onward submission to the President of Liberia for endorsement by his Cabinet. Amendment of this law would allow Liberian women to pass on their citizenship to their children born with non-Liberian fathers in accordance with Article 28 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Members of the Tienni community show their recently acquired birth certificates. These documents were delivered as part of a joint project between the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission and UNHCR, which aims to address the very low birth registration rate in Liberia. ©UNHCR/Ana Biurrun Ruiz, September 2018
1. Remove gender discrimination from nationality law to ensure children can acquire nationality from either their mother or their father.
Goal: Gender bias and other discriminatory clauses are removed from the 1973 Aliens and Nationality Law.
2. Improve the overall institutional capacity and processes of Bureau of Vital Statistics and Ministry of Health, especially at the decentralized county and district level, to scale-up provision of birth registration nationwide.
Goal: To have the birth registration system functioning at maximum efficiency and delivering quality birth registration services consistently at country and district level.
3. Promote the implementation of a National Birth Registration Policy in alignment with a Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system in Liberia.
Goal: Birth registration policy is implemented.
4. Provide birth certificates to children of former Sierra Leonean refugees locally integrated in 2008 in 5 communities in Montserrado, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, and naturalized in 2018.
Goal: All Sierra Leonean former refugee children born in Liberia will be provided with birth certificates.