Somali Citizenship Bill

It is vitally important to define who is eligible to receive Somali citizenship and as a pre-requisite to the reform of the electoral law.

It is vitally important to define who is eligible to receive Somali citizenship and as a pre-requisite to the reform of the electoral law.

LAW is the technical legal advisor to the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs (‘Ministry of Interior) in Somalia on the draft Citizenship Bill, due to be passed in 2017. The Citizenship Bill is the number one piece of legislation listed in a Schedule to the provisional Somali Constitution outlining the laws to be passed before the appointment of the new government.

LAW consultants drafted the Citizenship Bill in 2015 and have worked with the Ministry of Interior and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) in undertaking public consultations and technical revisions of the law throughout 2016. Through this process, a wide spectrum of civil society actors, women’s rights activists, religious leaders, customary elders and legal professionals have contributed to the development of the law.

The draft law updates the outdated 1962 Citizenship Law by:

  • Adding clarity and updating outdated provisions;
  • Revising provisions of law which are unconstitutional under the current provisional constitution, such as the prohibition on dual citizenship;
  • Bringing it into compliance with international law, including by preventing statelessness;
  • Inserting provisions to protect rights of children, women, and vulnerable/minority groups and prevent discrimination.

Below is a table summarising the key differences between the current law and the proposed Bill.

Issue 1962 Citizenship Law Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016
Dual Citizenship Does not allow for dual citizenship. It provides that any person who voluntarily accepts the citizenship of another country will lose their Somali citizenship. Allows for dual citizenship in Article 6.
Acquisition of citizenship A person can only acquire citizenship if:

  • His or her father is a Somali citizen; or
  • He or she is a Somali and is willing to renounce citizenship of any other country.
  • The government specifically  grants it.
A person can acquire citizenship if:

  • His or her mother or father is a Somali;
  • His or her mother or father was born in Somalia and he or she was also born in Somalia;
  • He or she was born in Somalia and would otherwise be stateless;
  • The government specifically grants it.
Gender equality Discriminates between the genders by providing that:

  • When a non-Somali man marries a Somali woman, the woman will involuntarily lose her Somali citizenship;
  • When a non-Somali woman marries a Somali man, she will automatically become a Somali citizen regardless of her preference;
  • Somali women are not be able to pass their citizenship on to their husbands;
  • Somali mothers cannot pass on citizenship to their children.
Upholds gender equality, as mandated by the Somali Constitution, by giving men and women equal citizenship rights. This includes:

  • Allowing all Somalis to retain their citizenship when they marry a non-Somali;
  • Allowing non-Somali women to retain their citizenship if they marry a Somali man, while also giving them the option of obtaining Somali citizenship after a prescribed period of time;
  • Allowing non-Somali men to apply for citizenship after being married to a Somali citizen for a prescribed period of time;
  • Allowing Somali mothers to pass citizenship to their children.
Rights of children Has no provisions specifically protecting the rights of children to Somali citizenship. Article 7 specifically protects the rights of children, including children who have been found abandoned, adopted children and children of people who have acquired citizenship by grant, each of whom will have a right to Somali citizenship in certain circumstances.
Risk of statelessness Does not protect against statelessness. Eg, if a child is born in Somalia to non-Somali parents and does not have citizenship rights in any other country, that child would remain stateless under the old law. Protects against statelessness by allowing a child to obtain Somali citizenship if they would otherwise be stateless.
Preamble and definitions Has no preamble or definitions section, so some terms within the law are unclear. Includes a preamble and extensive definitions section for the purposes of clarity.

LAW is currently preparing a mapping of all citizenship laws in the world and where they stand on the issues identified as controversial or sensitive areas in Somalia: equal citizenship rights of women, citizenship rights for non-Muslims, citizenship rights of refugees, protections against statelessness and the acquisition of citizenship through naturalisation. This mapping will be presented by the Ministry of Interior to the Parliament to assist them in their deliberations on the Bill. It will be made available on LAW’s website once it has been approved by the Ministry.

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