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Research to give voice to stateless children

University of the Sunshine Coast academic Dr Harriot Beazley has played a key role in ground-breaking international research aimed at reducing the incidence of children being born stateless.

The Senior Lecturer in Human Geography who specialises in children’s rights and community development in Indonesia joined researchers from Canada’s University of Victoria to study the impacts on children of transnational migrants, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Dr Beazley said a lack of identity documentation and citizenship left a multigenerational legacy of hardship for children and families who are already living on the margins.

“Stateless children have difficulty accessing health care, education and social services,” she said. “They often experience stigma and violence, and are at high risk of being exploited and trafficked.

“Our research points to some simple solutions that could have great impact on improving their predicament.”

Dr Beazley worked with University of Victoria academics Dr Leslie Butt and Professor Jessica Ball, who are experts in anthropology and child and youth care respectively.

The team has just completed a two-year pilot study in Indonesia on the risks and impacts of migration on children either left behind or born stateless.

“Indonesians make up one of the world’s largest outgoing streams of undocumented labourers, and the children of Indonesians who leave home for migrant work – frequently in unsafe and disempowering conditions – often lack documentation which identifies them as citizens of their country,” Dr Beazley said.

The researchers found that these children were often left stateless because birth registration processes in many countries did not consider the circumstances of parents on the move.

Dr Beazley said one of the team’s recommendations was to embed a simplified and no-cost birth registration process in birthing centres and primary health care programs in villages.

She said the study also found that mothers often lacked the social position and resources to take on the birth registration process.

“Efforts to educate and inform parents about birth registration need to include fathers,” she said.

“However, with many fathers forced to find work overseas, the birth registration process should be simplified so that mothers and even grandparents (who often care for children of migrant parents) can successfully complete the process themselves.”

This study has been supported by the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) at the University of Victoria and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

USC has a strong relationship with the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Barat, where this research was conducted on the island of Lombok.

Over the past 10 years, more than 100 USC students have travelled to Lombok for an annual in-country language and culture program for students of Indonesian, Social Science, Health, Community Development, Tourism and Education.

— Terry Walsh

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