Majlis revising citizenship laws in favor of Afghans

The Majlis has passed a bill that would grant Iranian nationality to children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers.

At its open session on Wednesday, parliament approved a single-priority bill that calls for revision of laws related to migration and citizenship. The revision would grant nationality and citizenship to children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers, Tabnak and Tasnim news agencies reported separately.

The bill titled ‘Optimization of Iran’s Immigration and Citizenship Laws’ was passed with 120 votes in favor, 36 against, and eight abstentions from among the 164 MPs present in the 290-member chamber. The 10th legislature convened in May.

Children from marriages between Iranian women and non-Iranian men are now just a step away from an Iranian birth certificate, provided the bill is endorsed by the Guardians Council — the powerful body in charge of vetting all laws and approving candidates seeking public office.

There are more than 30,000 Iranian-Afghan couples living in Iran (this is the number of registered marriages; the actual number is said to be much higher). According to official figures, at present, 32,000 children don’t have birth certificates because their Iranian mothers are married to illegal immigrants, and therefore their identity is anonymous, the online news website reports.

Lawmaker Reza Shiran Khorasani, who put forth the proposal in the Majlis, says there are between 800,000 to one million children from marriages of Iranian women with non-Iranian men.

A legal amendment to the nationality law passed in 2006 allowed children born in Iran to Iranian mothers to apply for citizenship on reaching the age of 18, under specific conditions, including registration of parents’ marriage with the relevant state authority, and if they have been living in the country for five consecutive years.

But this amendment was never been implemented, the affected families say.

The current bill will apply to children born before March 20, 2017 to Iranian mothers living in the country, who have fathers with foreign nationalities, without a nationality or those whose nationality is dubious.

Additionally, those who have Iranian mothers, whether born in Iran or outside but within the legal framework of Iranian laws, and have lived inside the country for at least 15 out of 18 years will be covered by the provisions of the bill if it becomes law.

Every year, many Iranian women married to Afghans move to Afghanistan and are forced to live in poverty and wretched conditions. According to official figures, currently over 400 Iranian women married to Afghans live in the war-ravaged country’s Herat Province.

Based on the bill, qualified immigrants (genius students or researchers), children of Afghan men who are recruited and martyred in the war in Syria as well as those significantly serving the nation, will also get Iranian nationality. This is said to be the main purpose behind the revisions of the law.

 Legal Limbo

At least 26,000 marriages of Iranian women and Afghan men in Iran are said to be unregistered, leaving them in a legal limbo.

Children born from these marriages face many social hurdles. Without Iranian birth certificate, free education in local schools and right to employment, subsidy and social welfare benefits like insurance are all denied. They also do not have the right to inherit property.

Unofficial statistics indicate the birth of 22,000 children without “clearly defined identity” in Mashhad, capital of Khorasan Razavi Province in the northeast that borders Afghanistan.

There is a huge settlement of refugees in the holy city where the shrine of the 8th Shia Imam Reza (AS) is located. Around 4,000 applications for citizenship by children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers have so far been filed at the provincial Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA).

Millions of Afghans live and work in Iran, legally and illegally, despite the efforts of the government and the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to repatriate them.

Most of the Afghan men took refuge in Iran either after the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, or following the Afghan civil war in the 1990s and the US-led invasion in 2001. During these decades Iran was host to nearly four million Afghan refugees. At present there are 3 million Afghan refugees of whom only 1 million have legal refugee status.

By Financial Tribune