Egypt: discrimination continues despite law reform

September 15, 2009

Almost a million children born before the nationality law amendment in 2004 are disadvantaged because the law does not grant them the right to automatic naturalization. Children of Palestinian and Sudanese fathers are targets of specific discrimination. In Egypt, the nationality law was reformed in 2004 to allow women to pass their nationality to their children. Even though the reform includes children born before the law amendment, the process specified by the law for these cases is too complicated, expensive, and requires the approval of the Minister of Interior. The minister’s approval has been arbitrary and usually excludes children of Palestinian and Sudanese fathers for geo-political reasons.

A study published by the Forum for Women in Development (FWID), the nationality campaign coordinator in Egypt, conducted by their monitoring and documentation center, stated that “almost a million sons and daughters of Egyptian women married to foreign men born before the amendment are disadvantaged because the law does not grant them the right to automatic naturalization. Even though the law does allow them to apply for citizenship, the requirements, stipulations, fees, and procedures are in fact the same as those required of foreign adults applying for Egyptian citizenship. Monitoring and documentation have revealed that the number of cases that have succeeded in obtaining the citizenship through this conditional, complicated, costly procedure is in fact very limited.”

For children of Egyptian mothers and Palestinian fathers, the only way they can obtain the Egyptian citizenship is through the court system. They have to file law suits against the Minister of Interior for his refusal to grant those children the Egyptian citizenship according to the law.

FWID's monitoring and documentation report reveals that there are many pending cases in courts-- 6 cases filed in 2006 and 200 cases filed in 2007. The majority of families who suffer from this discrimination, however, cannot afford the costs of law suits. Some of them ask NGOs like FWID for legal assistance in this matter. NGOs, however, have a limited capacity in this area and are not able to absorb and accommodate the high demand on such services.

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