Child born at sea 8 years ago to be fi­nally reg­is­tered in Malta

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Af­ter nu­mer­ous court sit­tings and years of wait­ing, the Court of Ap­peal yes­ter­day granted Chama Ha­tra, a So­mali woman who landed in Malta in 2008, the right for her child Muna to be reg­is­tered in Malta. The child was born at sea and is to­day eight years old.

Dr To­nio Az­zopardi, rep­re­sent­ing Ms Chama, ex­plained that Ha­tra Chama left So­ma­lia in March 2008 when she was preg­nant. She passed through Ethiopia, Su­dan and Libya. She left Libya on a boat with 70 other mi­grants on 1 Novem­ber 2008, and gave birth on the same boat on 2 Novem­ber.

“The next day, the mi­grants were trans­ferred onto the Rus­sian boat called Ye­lena Sha­trova, and an agree­ment was reached for them to be brought to Malta. The mi­grants dis­em­barked at Pinto Wharf at 10.05am on 5 Novem­ber, 2008.”

Ms Chama ap­plied for refugee sta­tus on 15 Jan­uary, 2009, and both she and her child were granted that pro­tec­tion.

“In July 2009, Ms Chama left for France with a group of mi­grants, and she tried to reg­is­ter her child’s birth with the Malta Pub­lic Registry. This, how­ever, was re­fused by the Direc­tor of the Pub­lic Registry”. The mother and daugh­ter left for France as part of a re­spon­si­bil­ity shar­ing ini­tia­tive be­tween Mal­tese and French Au­thor­i­ties.

“De­spite sev­eral at­tempts from the Refugee Com­mis­sion with the Pub­lic Registry and the min­istry con­cerned, Ms Chama’s re­quest re­mained pend­ing, and no an­swer was given”.

“The fact that the boat where Muna was born was not reg­is­tered in Malta is ab­so­lutely ir­rel­e­vant,” Dr Az­zopardi ar­gued.

He said that the right for a child born at sea to be reg­is­tered is a hu­man right. “This is why reg­is­tra­tion must oc­cur on the land where the mother and child land by the boat that saved them. The mother was also granted hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­tec­tion in Malta”.

The Emi­grants Com­mis­sion had pre­vi­ously filed an un­suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion with the fam­ily courts, ask­ing them to con­sider Muna’s reg­is­tra­tion. This was un­suc­cess­ful.

The ap­pli­ca­tion then went to the Civil Court, but the ap­pli­ca­tion was also un­suc­cess­ful.

De­spite the Civil Code hav­ing been amended, en­abling the Pub­lic Registry to reg­is­ter births at sea, au­thor­i­ties al­legedly still re­fused to reg­is­ter the child.

In its rul­ing, the Court of Ap­peal quoted an amend­ment to the Civil Code which came into force in 2015: “The Pub­lic Registry can, solely for hu­man­i­tar­ian rea­sons, reg­is­ter the birth of a child that was born at sea on a boat which does not have a reg­is­tered coun­try, and this, only if Malta is the first port of dis­em­barka­tion af­ter birth.”

The Court said that while the boat the baby landed in Malta on was not the same boat the child was born on, the trans­fer took place as the orig­i­nal boat was in a per­ilous sit­u­a­tion.

“This is why the child must have the same rights as though the boat she was born on was the same one that landed in Malta”.

A photo taken on 5 Novem­ber 2008 show­ing Chama Ha­tra and her daugh­ter Muna dis­em­bark­ing from a Rus­sian ves­sel af­ter be­ing res­cued at sea. A court ruled yes­ter­day that Muna can be reg­is­tered in Malta for hu­man­i­tar­ian rea­sons

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