A generation of Syrian children who don't count

A generation of Syrian children born as refugees lack basic rights and face statelessness.

LEBANON (REUTERS) - An estimated 300,000 Syrian refugees call Lebanon's Bekaa Valley home.

Their future is uncertain, but for many of the youngest, it's worse than that.

A growing number of them are effectively stateless, like refugee Asheqa's seven-month-old Nour, the first in her family born as a refugee.

"If we can't register her here, it is a problem. If we go to Syria, she is not recognised there, if somebody stops us on the way and asks about her, we cannot prove she's our child. It is a problem," said Asheqa, a Syrian refugee and mother of the stateless child, Nour.

Registering the birth of a child should be a straightforward process. Not here. For refugees in Lebanon, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare.

They need a birth notification from the hospital or midwife and a notary, then they must register with the local government.

But rules requiring refugees to carry certain documents and pay residency fees, often present hurdles, which could ultimately affect the estimated 50,000 unregistered Syrian children in Lebanon.

Refugee Ahmad says he cannot afford to update his documents.

"They won't register our boy until we renew our papers. My wife and I haven't been paid anything for around a year, and we need at least $400 (S$541) for me and $400 (S$541) for her to renew our residency. So, in all we need about $1,000 (S$ 1,354) to register my child."

These are huge sums for refugees, many of whom live in poverty and face a future without hope of ever returning home, although for their children, a real home may only ever exist as something to hope for.