‘Operation Birthright’ to target vulnerable, undocumented Jamaicans
WITH an estimated 200,000 Jamaicans possessing no legal identification, the Government is seeking to provide free birth certificates for at least 11,000 of the most vulnerable in this cohort though its ‘Operation Birthright’ initiative.
Reducing the number of undocumented people will be crucial as the Government gets ready to roll out the National Identification System (NIDS) and encourage increased participation in the voluntary programme.
This is according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness who pointed out that a birth certificate forms the basis of one’s identity and will be a necessary document for verification under NIDS, which seeks to establish a safe, reliable structure to enable the collection and storage of citizens’ identity information.
“Because this [birth certificate] is the foundation document, the NIDS is built on top of this. So, someone applying for their NIDS card would have to prove that they were born in Jamaica on the date formally certified and registered [by] their parents [so as] to establish citizenship,” Holness said.
Holness noted, however, that while it is important for all Jamaicans to have this foundation document, it is not just needed for the NIDS but is crucial for getting access to services, for example in registering a child for school.
The prime minister said Operation Birthright is an important step for equity to ensure that every Jamaican, including those who did not have their birth certificate, gets a chance to participate in NIDS.
Financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) at a cost of $50 million the programme, which falls under the National Identification System (NIDS), will be executed through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD).
Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Floyd Green said Operation Birthright is one of the most transformational projects the Government has embarked on.
“Operation Birthright is the first comprehensive approach to find our most vulnerable citizens who do not have a birth certificate, and who cannot afford to get a certificate, and to provide them a birth certificate — free of cost,” Green said.
He noted that by providing birth certificates for those not in possession of this vital document the Government will “unlock so much more for them”, noting that this is part of the Administration’s drive in digitally transforming Jamaica “and this will be one of the foundation documents required for them to have their national identification card and for them to really step into our new digital society”.
Green said the programme will involve partnering with Members of Parliament (MPs) to nominate at least 60 people to access this service and will also include working with the National Youth Parliament to help sign people up who are in need of this initiative.
Meanwhile, modernisation of state specialist, IDB, Benjamin Roseeth welcomed Operation Birthright, noting that it is an “important step to strengthening the foundation of the Jamaican society in which everyone has a solid base on which they can build their lives”.
“For the IDB, it is an honour to support the Government of Jamaica in guaranteeing the most basic of rights — legal identity for all Jamaicans,” he said.
Dr Angela Brown Burke, who represented the leader of the Opposition, also endorsed the initiative, pointing out that “the Opposition supports any proactive action that one may take to ensure that we can get individuals who don’t have a birth certificate with one in their hand”.
To be eligible for Operation Birthright, individuals have to be born in Jamaica, aged one or above, have a monthly income of $37,000 or below, and should not be currently receiving similar assistance under another programme.
Recommendations for programme participation can also be made by: the head of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities; a senior official in the Ministry of Local Government certifying an individual as a registered poor; a justice of the peace; a public officer SEG 1 and above; medical practitioner; minister of religion; police officer; parish councillor; dental surgeon; principal (primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions); veterinarian; bank manager; official representative of the Salvation Army; official representative of the Missionaries of the Poor; the CEO/coordinator of a registered civil society organisation; or by the head of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security if the applicant is on PATH.
Individuals can also visit their MPs or any of the RGD’s offices to request assistance under the programme. For more information, persons can visit www.nidsfacts.com