Nearly eight years after birth, child born at sea will finally be registered in Malta

After numerous court sittings and years of waiting, the Court of Appeal today granted Chama Hatra, a Somali woman who landed in Malta back 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 November 1, 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 on 5 November, 2008 and 10.05 am”.

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, yet 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 here.

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”.

This Article was originally published in the Independence 

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