The Slow-Motion Legal Disaster Unfolding within the Refugee Crisis

As refugees continue to be driven out of Syria, a legal crisis is taking shape throughout the region that parallels the humanitarian one.

Refugees leaving Syria face a bureaucratic nightmare that isn’t always readily apparent. For instance, when they depart their home countries, many leave behind their IDs, passports, and marriage and birth certificates. Then, because of lengthy and complex registration processes, some Syrians go on to marry in their host countries without proper documentation. Problems proliferate from there. Children are born “illegitimate” and divorces are legally impossible. Family, the crucial stabilizer of societies in tumult, runs the risk of breaking down.

These obstacles to marriage and birth registration, coupled with gender-discriminatory nationality laws in the region, are creating an urgent need for legal aid. This need is particularly pressing in countries like Jordan and Lebanon, which are at the front lines of the Syrian refugee crisis, yet haven’t ratified the 1951 Status of Refugees Convention or its 1967 Protocol.

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