Parents in limbo as 'stateless' baby's hospital bills mount in UAE

 khaleejtimes.com  11/8/2018 12:01:00 AM  13  Anjana Sankar /Abu Dhabi

A 'stateless' five-month old baby in Abu Dhabi is fighting a life-threatening heart disease, and is unable to get a passport and health insurance.

Born to British father and Pakistani mother, Hana Noor Khan is not considered a citizen by either of her parent's home countries, and hence unable to get a passport.

Hana's father said the baby has to first seek citizenship - a process that can take more than six months.

But unfortunately, time is not on Hana's side. Her hospital bills are mounting to thousands of dirhams as she underwent her second heart surgery last month at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Hana had her first heart surgery on May 30 - just a week after birth. Since then, she has spent the most part of her life at hospital, having developed an infection, and is currently in the Intensive Care Unit.

"Hana was born with a heart defect called Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant the left side of her heart is too weak to pump blood around her body. As parents, it was devastating enough. Now we are staring at huge medical bills as she has no insurance coverage," Hana's father Mohammed Arshed Khan, told Khaleej Times.

He said the hospital management has been exceptionally helpful in supporting them so far but "Hana needs further treatment and care".

Khan, 50, who runs an IT firm in Dubai, and his wife Samia Zahid are in a limbo as naturalisation and citizenship rules in both their countries are not in favour of Hana.

"My application for a UK passport for my daughter was rejected on July 5 because I am not a British citizen by birth, and hence Hana, also not born in the UK, is not eligible for the same," said the father.

Khan was born in Pakistan, and moved to the UK when he was three months old. He became a British citizen by descent as his father was a British citizen serving in Royal Airforce.

The British Passport Office, in a letter issued to Khan, stated that British passports are issued to those who have a claim under the British Nationality Act 1981, and Hana is not a British national.

"As you were born in Pakistan to a British citizen parent, you are a British citizen by descent. As a result, you are unable to pass this citizenship on to a child that was also born outside of the United Kingdom," read the letter, a copy of which was seen by Khaleej Times.

If Khan has to apply for British citizenship for his child, he has to follow a procedure and wait for the government to decide whether Hana is eligible.

"I have applied for her nationality, but it is not a guarantee," said Khan.

He said he also approached the Pakistani embassy to get a passport for his daughter as her mother is a citizen of the country, but faced other hurdles. "I was told that only a Pakistani father can apply for a child's passport, and I am not."

But when contacted, a spokesperson from the embassy said Hana needs to apply for a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) before applying for a passport.

"As the mother is a Pakistani citizen, she can apply for citizenship for her child by submitting relevant documents including birth certificate and couple's marriage certificate. As the child is born outside of Pakistan, NICOP is mandatory," said the spokesperson.

NICOP is a registration document issued to an eligible citizen of Pakistan who lives or has reference abroad.

Meanwhile, Khan's sister based in the UK has launched an online appeal to help the family fund the child's treatment.

"Further surgery and support is required over the coming weeks, months and years. We are all hoping that Hana will be in the UK in the next 6-12 months to continue her treatment," said the sister.

Rules for a child born outside the country to be eligible for passport UK A person born outside the UK can only claim British citizenship, if at the time of their birth:

>Either parent is a British citizen otherwise than by descent - such as by birth in the UK or registration or naturalisation in the UK as a British citizen

>The British citizen parent is born outside the UK and was in Crown, designated or EU institution service at the time of their birth (This gives them British nationality other than by descent, enabling them to pass on their nationality)

Pakistan:

Any person born outside of Pakistan needs to first apply for the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) before applying for a passport.

India:

Parents can apply for passport for a child born outside India if either of the parents is an Indian citizen.

If the parents are of two different nationalities, a sworn affidavit stating that the child is not applying for passport from any other country has to be submitted. Also the parent, who is an Indian citizen, should not have an application for citizenship under process in any other country. This is because India does not allow dual citizenship.

anjana@khaleejtimes.com

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