Thirteen-year-old Mariam Khan rarely leaves her home. She has never been to school. Mariam was born at home.
And nor, has she ever seen her father, Mariam said.
Her mother, Halima Mohammad Abdul Razak Khan (32), works as a housemaid in Sharjah. She (Halima) was four months pregnant when her relationship with her Pakistani husband fell apart.
Halima has a valid marriage certificate registered in Ajman Court. But her child has no birth certificate, or passport. She is hence an illegal. But Halima is now trying to avail herself of the current Amnesty and rectify Mariam’s status. Mother and daughter want to continue living in the UAE. Halima has a valid work visa.
Noor Ahmad Khan Sultan, Halima’s husband, is said to have worked as a driver in Sharjah. Halima claims her husband has not been in contact with her and Mariam.
Halima said it was like a nightmare when she was forced to deliver Mariam in a home-birth. “There was no one around to take me to the hospital when I started having labour pains.”
“A neighbour tried calling my husband several times. She then called my brother, but by the time he reached home, I had delivered the baby,” said the teary-eyed mother.
Since Mariam was delivered at home, Halima has not been able to secure a birth-certificate for the girl from a hospital in the UAE. As a result, she also does not have a passport.
Mariam claimed she has never attended school in her life. She has never been given formal education as her mother could not produce legal documents in her name.
It is like a vicious circle and my life seems to have come to a standstill.
But when you talk to the young girl, you would never guess that she has never attended school. She speaks fairly good English and attributes it to some Good Samaritans who come home and teach her the language.
“I also picked up some English while watching Japanese cartoons on YouTube. They all came with English sub-titles and my proficiency in the language improved,” Mariam said.
Salam Pappinnisseri of Ali Ibrahim Advocates and Legal Consultant is helping Halima get a legal document for Mariam. “We approached the Ajman court and they have referred Mariam’s case to the Child Protection Centre in Sharjah,” he told Gulf News.
Fakir Muhammad Munawar Hossain, First Secretary (Labour) of the Embassy of Bangladesh, said: “We are always available at the service of this girl. But from a documentation process, we require two things - a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Embassy of Pakistan authorising us to issue the girl a Bangladeshi passport. We also need some proof of the girl’s birth like a birth certificate or birth notification issued by relevant UAE authorities.”
In response to a query from Gulf News, Ashique Shaikh, Press Counsellor at the Pakistani consulate, said in an email: “In order to claim the right of nationality by descent, evidence/proof of details of parents of a child in the form of birth certificate or any other document(s) to that effect is required. Once nationality of the child is established, only then can her identity card or passport can be processed. In this particular instance, as neither birth certificate nor any other such document with details of parents is available, the Consulate General of Pakistan is unable to process this request.”
As of now Halima’s fate in the UAE hangs in the balance. The Amnesty period gets over on December 31. She wants to continue living in the UAE with her mother as a legal resident. But time is running out for her.