Jasmine*,26, like many migrant workers who become victims of trafficking, believed she was coming to Kurdistan via an employment agency to work and provide a better life for her family in Sierra Leone. Little did Jasmine know, she would set legal precedent by becoming the first mother to obtain a birth certificate for her child in her name, without the father present, in Kurdistan, Iraq.
When Jasmine arrived in Erbil in February 2019, the employment agency seized her passport. She was alone in a foreign land, jobless, penniless, and unknowingly, pregnant. While being health screened for a job, it revealed she was pregnant.
Jasmine, with no passport or money, was afraid and unsure of what to do, she spoke with other migrant workers who advised her to go to the police, believing the illegal confiscation of her passport would result in a swift and good outcome for her. Fortunately the TIP police, due to Jasmine’s unique situation, put her in the government shelter for abused women.
Being pregnant in a government shelter is difficult. Confined only to the shelter, it can be overcrowded with little comfort, and limited medical care. The TIP police referred Jasmine to SEED Foundation for further support, Jasmine had immediate needs which required SEED to provide mental health support, legal representation, cash assistance, clothes, and further support when the baby arrived including baby clothes, milk, and diapers.
Jasmine gave birth to a healthy boy in October 2019, she named him Sardar after the police officer who rescued her. Jasmine was keen to return home to her husband in Sierra Leone, but had to obtain a birth certificate in order to depart with her baby.
Jasmine faced two legal challenges, her initial entry visa had expired, and an even bigger challenge was to obtain a birth certificate, in Kurdistan and Iraq it is required that both parents be present, an impossibility for Jasmine.
“It was really hard for the client to leave Iraq without having documentation for the child, we faced a number of legal challenges,” our lawyer explained. “The government and TIP police had asked the father to send a document, which due to his personal circumstances and procedures in Sierra Leone, it was impossible for him because the baby was born in Kurdistan.”
However, against the odds, SEED’s lawyer was able to successfully argue Jasmine’s case and obtain the birth certificate using only the mother’s name, a first in Kurdistan.
The maltreatment Jasmine faced from the employment agency who trafficked her to Kurdistan, is not a rare occurrence – thankfully on this occasion the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) acted quickly closing down the employment agency’s operations, imposed fines against it, and blacklisted the company from operating.
As a SEED Protection Manager commented “there is a lot of deception in that line of work. Migrant workers are very vulnerable. Typically, the job adverts are misleading and full of false promises.”
Thankfully in the end Jasmine and her baby were able to safely travel home.
“This was not my country, but SEED made it possible for Sardar and I to return home, and see my husband and family,” said Jasmine.
To learn more about Human Trafficking in Kurdistan read SEED’s report
*Name and minor details have been changed to protect client confidentiality