In this era of globalization, any person is required to bring legal documents from where she/he lives to enjoy any social rights such as education, job and marriage. The Public Registration Office in the Central region was setup to record a brief profile of every individual or a family in the country. With the increasing demand of legal documents, the office is always over crowded with clients. It usually provides services for around 150 up to 200 beneficiaries per day, and sometimes the number is double fold during summer times and during the registration of students in colleges. Shabait has conducted an interview with Mr. Tesfamichael Tesfaldet, the Head of the Public Registration, Cemetery and Social Rehabilitation office in the Central region focusing on the general activities of the office.
Let’s start with the background of the public registration office?
It was introduced during the Italian colonial era in 1939 to serve the Italian settlers in Eritrea, and gradually some Eritreans also started to register their families there. During the Ethiopian colonial period also the office was carrying out its activities though there was no noticeable improvement in the work procedures. However, after independence, the office was restructured and the number of users has increased gradually.
What developments has the office made over the past years?
The office was working manually, which was causing a lot of inconvenience at work, until its renovation in 2003. Network system was introduced and extensive public census was conducted in which legal residential cards with accurate information of a person’s profile was given to all residents. The process of registration, which was previously done through court, is now carried out directly by the administrative areas. This has made it easier for beneficiaries to get legal documents since she/he is already registered in the office. At one point, we were been able to provide a person with any document within two-days. However, due to some shortage of equipments, and technical problems, we were unable to continue like that.
Explain to us the general services the office provides?
We give legal documents of birth, marriage, divorce, death, residential, associations and marital status as well as family certificates. These certificates are legal and acceptable in any country, and currently birth certificate is becoming vital document to facilitate different social activities. Thus, we are encouraging people to get their birth certificate document before hand.
What are the criteria required to get a birth certificate?
The office is striving to provide a birth certificate to every new baby born in Eritrea despite his or her nationality within 90 days. The required documents are birth or vaccination certificates, filling registration form, residential card of parents and ID card of either parent. However, if the new-born baby isn’t registered within the given time, she/he is required to bring copy of birth document from administrative area, filling registration form, copies of residential card and nationality cards of both parents, as well personally signing a paper in the Public Registration office. The same procedure applies to a person under 17 years old. For a person over 18 years old, she/he is required to bring birth documentation from the administrative area, copy of residence card and his/her national ID cards or of either parent. Eritreans residing abroad also need to bring certificate of 2% tax, copies of national ID and Passport. If the person is not here personally, she/he could carry out the process through legal representative.
Tell us about the criteria needed to get other legal documents?
Regarding marriage certificate, a person is required to present birth certificate, legal marriage certificate either from church or other relevant religious institution, the court, administrative area or committee of elders, as well as copies of residential and national ID cards and filling out a registration form. For Eritreans living abroad they need to add marital status from the embassy, 2% tax paper and passport. If one of the couples is from abroad, she/he should bring original birth and single marital status certificates, nationality ID card and passport. For any marriage conducted by a representative, permission should first be received from the court, and if one of the married couples is unable to apply for a marriage certificate, their spouses can carry out the process on their behalf. Some Eritreans use two different names, we at least expect the name on the passport and the ID card as well as 2% tax paper to be in same name or the person should bring supporting letter from the embassy.
Moreover, a person demanding the death certificate of the deceased should bring copies of national ID of the deceased and residential card including death certificate from the hospital or administrative area that informs cause of death, and if the deceased is from abroad certificate would be needed from the embassy.
Concerning divorce certificate, the person should bring divorce papers from the court and copy of national ID card. This certificate is given to those who registered their marriage at the Public Registration office previously. To get single marital status, the person only needs birth certificate and marital status paper from the court.
Mr. Tesfamichael, you said that the office gives certificate to associations, can you elaborate on that?
It gives certificate to associations, which are free from religious or ethnic influence such as the Association of North American Returnees. The association is required to bring supporting letter from the administration, constitutional laws of the association, list of names of the members, as well as photo and residential cards of the heads of the association. Once the association obtains this certificate, it is recognized by the government and could carry out its activities legally.
How would you rate the society’s awareness regarding the importance having legal documents ?
I can say that it is very limited because most of the beneficiaries come to the office when they are required to bring legal certificate for some social service institution, and some of them come with incomplete information. This creates work load. People might complain of delays, however, the office is working vigorously to clarify ambiguous documents regardless of the time consumed in order to provide the coming generation with clear records.
Is there any message you want to convey?
The public at large should have the required legal documents before hand and Eritreans residing abroad should bring the necessary documents with them for any social service they need.