Center for the Defence of the Individual
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Child Registration in the OPT

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In 1967, with the onset of the occupation, Israel held a census in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Only those Palestinians who were then present in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) were recorded in the population registry as permanent residents. Since then, Israel has allowed only the registration of children under the age of 16 who have at least one parent who is an OPT resident.

In 1995, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) gained sole control over the registration of children under 16 in the population registry, even if they were born abroad, provided one of their parents is an OPT resident. In reality, Israel blatantly breached the Oslo Accord and required the child’s physical presence in the OPT during registration. In so doing, Israel effectively retained control over the registration, given that, with the exception of children under 5 who enter the OPT as companions of their parents, minors are required to obtain visitor permits from Israel in order to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

In 1997, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to instruct the military to register Palestinian children under 18 as residents of the OPT. In the petition, HaMoked argued that the military contravened its own amended order concerning identity cards and the population registry, whereby "any person still under age 18 is entitled to be registered in the population registry [...]". HaMoked also claims that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, establishes the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in all actions concerning children under age 18. The court rejected the petition.

In September 2000, with the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel imposed a freeze on all OPT residency processes, including the issuance of visitor permits for child registration purposes. In 2005, after a 5 year freeze, and only following HaMoked's petitions, Israel resumed issuing visitor permits for children under 16 for registration in the Palestinian population registry.

One of the issues left unresolved was the registration of children who have passed the age of 16 and had still not managed to be registered in the Palestinian population registry – due to either the long freeze period or the protracted period of time it takes Israel to approve such applications, coupled with the obstacles it sets before families seeking to realize their child's right to residency. The military refuses to consider the child's age on the submission date of the application as the deciding age for approval, and so many children, who were approaching the age of 16 at the end of the freeze period, could not conclude the registration process and (according to Israel) lost their eligibility for residency. In some cases handled by HaMoked, also through petitions to the HCJ, the military ultimately approved the children's registration. In cases where applications had not filed before the children turned 16 due to the Israeli freeze, the military maintained, and still does, that anyone who had not applied on time has lost his right and "can only blame himself".

In 2006, following the Israeli government's decision to boycott the PA due to Hamas's rise to power, Israel again froze the issuance of child registration visitor permits. HaMoked learnt of this in the framework of a petition it had filed to the HCJ. Furthermore, the military refused to guarantee that if and when the boycott would be lifted, anyone who would by then pass the age of 16 would be allowed to register. HaMoked applied to the court in both individual petitions for approval of visitor permits and in a general demand, seeking a state guarantee to allow the late registration of children who would turn 16 during the boycott. In many such petitions, Israel approved the registration of children over 16 before the HCJ delivered its verdict, in order to avoid a judicial debate on the issue of principal. Many families who did not seek HaMoked's legal assistance, had to resign themselves to the arbitrariness of the decision, and their children lost their chance to realize their right to residency in the OPT.

In November 2006, following HaMoked's intervention, the military lifted the freeze and began implementing a relatively regular procedure for issuing visitor permits for the purpose of registration of children under 16 in the Palestinian population registry. HaMoked continues to handle applications for the registration of minors who passed the age limit during the period in which Israel refused to accept and approve applications for visitor permits.
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