Emirati mother seeks citizenship for son left stateless in legal anomaly

Esmat Rabi and her Greek husband are unable to obtain a passport for their son because Greece does not recognise their marriage


Esmat Rabi, with her son Abdullah.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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A bureaucratic anomaly has left a boy born to an Emirati mother and a Greek father without citizenship, putting his life in the UAE on hold.

Four-year-old Abdullah has been without documents from birth and after years of trying to resolve the issue, his mother is appealing for help.

Esmat Rabi and her husband met while studying at a university in London and married at the London Central Mosque.

They moved to the UAE in 2014, where they have lived ever since.

Their Islamic marriage was quickly recognised by the UAE government. However, when their son was born, they ran into trouble.

Abdullah cannot take Emirati citizenship without first presenting citizenship from his father’s country and Greece has not granted the child a passport.

Greek law requires the child be registered as either born to married parents or born outside of wedlock before issuing citizenship. The Greek government does not recognise religious wedding ceremonies like the one the couple had. Because Ms Rabi and her husband did not have a civil marriage, they are not registered as legally married under Greek law.


Esmat Rabi, with her son Abdullah.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Section:  NA
Abdullah cannot take Emirati citizenship without first presenting citizenship from his father’s country. Reem Mohammed / The National

The Greek authorities asked that the UAE government provide paperwork declaring the child was born outside of marriage.

But the UAE cannot do this because under local law, Abdullah’s parents were legally married.

“We’ve been pushing the last four years for a Greek passport but we’re just finding it’s a dead end,” says Ms Rabi.

“It’s actually against European law for a European child to be without a passport. This is the child of a European citizen.”

Children born to Emirati mothers with foreign husbands are eligible for passports after age six but without a passport from his father’s country, Abdullah cannot apply for a UAE document. Ms Rabi fears her son will miss out on an education if she does not pursue his documents now.

Ms Rabi has her own Emirati family book, a document that traces genealogical decent and is required to obtain Emirati citizenship. Her marriage is registered in the UAE courts and attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation in London.

A spokesman for the Director of Citizenship in Greece said that Ms Rabi’s husband “has been fully informed about the provisions of the Greek law regarding citizenship (of a child due to a Greek father) and what kind of documents he needs to submit in order for his child to be lawfully registered as a Greek citizen.”

“So far he has not responded, that is why the problem remains unsolved,” the spokesman added.

“We are always at his disposal in case he needs further clarification.”

Abdullah's birth certificate from Latifah Hospital, stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, was among the documents submitted but they cannot obtain the required document that says they are unmarried when, by UAE law, they are.

The UAE government authorities could not be reached for comment.


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Without a passport, Ms Rabi’s son cannot enrol in school or obtain health insurance in the UAE. Nor can he travel.

Initially, he was eligible under her company’s healthcare policy based on his birth certificate but government ID is now required for all insurance.

When Abdullah falls ill, his parents must take him to costly private hospitals because public hospitals require non-insured patients to present ID. This summer, a stomach ache landed the family with a Dh1,000 bill.

“It just feels like my son’s life is on hold,” says Ms Rabi. “He’s a really bright kid, he’s getting older and he’s starting to realise that’s he’s missing out. He knows there’s a country with snow, which he doesn’t see. He knows his grandparents are in Greece and the only way he sees them is when they come here twice a year. He’s missing out on life.”

In the meantime, all family plans are on hold.

“We don’t know what to do. I would really love for my country to reach out and say, ‘OK, there is a child who is stateless and whose mother is Emirati and he’s born here’. For them to see that there’s someone who’s here.”

Ms Rabi and her husband travelled to Greece many times to try to resolve the issue, but to no avail. They hope there is a way for UAE authorities to help.

“The best scenario right now would be for him to obtain an Emirati passport,” says Ms Rabi. “I mean, he lives here, he’s born here. We’re not going to be moving to Greece. He says, ‘Dubai is my city’. That’s what he knows.

“That is my hope and as an Emirati myself I would want my son to have an Emirati passport.”