Somalia: Requirements and procedures to obtain the Certificate of Identity; the Certificate of Identity, including its purpose, the issuing authorities, its content, appearance, and security features; sample (2020–January 2022) [SOM200884.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

For information on identity documents in Somalia, including national ID cards, passports and driver's licences, and the requirements and procedures to obtain them, see Response to Information Request SOM200235 of August 2020.

According to a report by Somalia's Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation (MoIFAR), "[c]urrently, there is no national system of civil registration (including birth registration) or identity documents that may serve as documentary proof of nationality in Somalia" (Somalia 22 June 2021, 11). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an analyst with 30 years of legal experience in Somalia stated that there is not a "single type of identity certificate used by the Somali people" (Analyst 6 Jan. 2022). The same source further noted that the identity cards used by Somali citizens are "most likely" cards from universities, civil service, sports clubs and money transfer company cards (Analyst 6 Jan. 2022). A news report from Radio Dalsan, a radio station based in Mogadishu which aims to provide "neutral information" and to further the human rights of "poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged" residents in the city (Radio Dalsan n.d.), states that in 2020, the Somali parliament approved a bill to establish the Somali National Registration and Recognition Agency (Radio Dalsan 2 Nov. 2020). The same source notes that "[c]urrently" identification documents are issued on a "small scale" by the Ministry of the Interior (Radio Dalsan 2 Nov. 2020). An article by the EastAfrican, a Kenyan newspaper, reports that in November 2020 the Lower House endorsed the National Identity (ID) Authority Bill which would establish a national ID authority responsible for "maintain[ing] the identity and statistics" of people in Somalia and for issuing "each person a unique ID number or ID card" (The EastAfrican 5 Nov. 2020). However, the analyst stated that the federal parliament rejected a proposal to create national certificates of identity (Analyst 6 Jan. 2022). Further and corroborating information on the rejection of the National ID Authority Bill by parliament could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

A country information report on Somalia from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that, according to a confidential source, in the Banadir region individuals issued a birth certificate also receive a document called the Certificate of Identity Confirmation (Netherlands Mar. 2019, 31). A 2017 article from Goobjoog News, an independent news website based in Mogadishu (Goobjoog News n.d.), shows an individual holding a copy of their Certificate of Identity Confirmation dated 2 November 2017 at a registration centre in Mogadishu, Banadir region (Goobjoog News 24 Dec. 2017). The same source further reports that individuals at the registration centre in Mogadishu were facing challenges renewing their birth certificates, including long lines and delays (Goobjoog News 24 Dec. 2017). In follow-up correspondence, the Analyst stated that the Certificate of Identity Confirmation in the photo of the Goobjoog News article is an "authenticity document" for a birth certificate, issued in the Banadir region [to individuals applying for a passport (Analyst 13 Jan. 2022b)] (Analyst 13 Jan. 2022a). In an interview with the Research Directorate, a durable solutions officer speaking on behalf of the UNHCR Representation in Somalia stated that the Banadir region "is a special case" and has its own agencies and commissions as it is not a federal member state (UN 19 Jan. 2022).

2. Requirements and Procedures to Obtain a Certificate of Identity

Information on the requirements and procedures to obtain a certificate of identity was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The UNHCR Durable Solutions Officer noted in follow-up correspondence that the procedures for a Somali national to obtain a certificate of identity are as follows:

  • Visit a degmada (local government office).
  • Pay the fee of US$15.
  • Provide personal details, including a photo and thumb print.
  • Return after one week to collect the completed certificate (UN 21 Jan. 2022).

3. Issuing Authorities

According to sources, there is no central authority to issue civil documents (World Bank 2016, 12; US n.d.). A report from Norway's country of origin information centre Landinfo notes that, according to information they received from meetings and email correspondence with embassy officials, for Somalia passport applications, embassies in Belgium, Kenya and the US can issue a "'Declaration of Nationality'" which is "normally issued based on an interview" (Norway 21 May 2019, 2–3). In an interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Somali Development Center (SDC) [1] speaking on his own behalf, stated that he has seen "many" certificates of identity (Executive Director 6 Jan. 2022). The same source further noted that the SDC issues affidavits supporting an individual's identity for asylum proceedings after conducting in-depth interviews to ascertain if individual is "who they claim to be" (Executive Director 6 Jan. 2022). Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, the President of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE), an organization with the purpose of "meet[ing] the needs of the Somali Canadian community in Edmonton" and environs, stated that the organization provides certificates of identity to individuals who speak the Somali language, are able to "demonstrate knowledge" of the city they are from in Somalia, and can bring two "known members of the community" who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents and who can "demonstrate" that they knew the individual in Somalia (President 13 Jan. 2022). The Analyst stated that Somaliland "has issued" "certificates of identity" to individuals that possess "Somaliland identity" and are eligible to vote (Analyst 6 Jan. 2022).

4. Contents and Appearance

The Executive Director stated that identity documents "are all different depending on municipality and locality" (Executive Director 6 Jan. 2022). Similarly, the UNHCR Durable Solutions Officer noted that documents vary by state or region (UN 19 Jan. 2022). The same source further stated that systems have "legislation gaps" and are "continually changing," meaning that if a document was issued "in earlier years," the format could have since changed; before the current government came to power in 2014, systems were "likely" different (UN 19 Jan. 2022). In follow-up correspondence, the UNHCR Durable Solutions Officer further noted that "[t]here is a lack of uniformity in colour, format, and appearance" among "issuing authorities in the state and regional administrations" and that there "may be differences in the appearance of certificates of identity from the same state or regional administration depending on the date of issue" (UN 21 Jan. 2022).

The information in the following paragraph is from the 2017 Goobjoog article:

An image shows an individual holding a copy of a "'[C]ertificate of [I]dentity [C]onfirmation'" at a registration centre in Mogadishu. Across the top of the document it reads "Mayor of Mogadishu hereby certifies that the person whose picture and thumb print appears hereon has the following details." Along the left side of the document, the following fields are listed:

  • name
  • gender
  • marital status
  • address
  • mother's full name
  • date of issue
  • occupation.

On the right side of the document are the following fields:

  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • ID number.

At the bottom right of the document there is a photo of the individual and to the right of it, the individual's right thumb print. Towards the centre of the lower half of the document, there is a stamp of a round seal with writing around the outside and an image in the middle and below the seal is a signature and date (Goobjoog News 24 Dec. 2017).

A sample of a certificate of identity for the Municipality of Baidoa provided in joint correspondence to the Research Directorate from lawyers at a law firm in Somalia whose practice areas include regulatory compliance, a law firm in the US whose practice areas include immigration law and an international law firm based in Canada that provides advice on transactions in Africa is attached to this Response (Attachment 1). A sample of a certificate of identity for the Municipality of Mogadishu provided by the UNHCR Durable Solutions Officer is attached to this Response (Attachment 2). A sample of a certificate of identity for the Municipality of Mogadishu provided by the lawyers is attached to this Response (Attachment 3).

5. Security Features

The World Bank report states that "fake or forged documents are rampant" in Somalia (World Bank 2016, 12). A country information report on Somalia from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) notes that authenticating documents is "impossible" due to the absence of "reliable government-held registries" (Australia 13 June 2017, para. 5.20).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The Somali Development Center (SDC) is a US-based organization that provides community services to Somalis and members of other African communities living in Boston (SDC n.d.).

References

Analyst. 13 January 2022a. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Analyst. 13 January 2022b. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Analyst. 6 January 2022. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Australia. 13 June 2017. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT Country Information Report: Somalia. [Accessed 6 Jan. 2022]

The EastAfrican. 5 November 2020. Abdulkadir Khalif. "Somali Legislators Endorse National ID Authority Bill." [Accessed 12 Jan. 2022]

Executive Director, Somali Development Center (SDC). 6 January 2022. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.

Goobjoog News. 24 December 2017. "Hundreds of Somali Citizens Complain from Lack of Service from Birth Registration Department in Banadir State." [Accessed 12 Jan. 2022]

Goobjoog News. N.d. "About Goobjoog News." [Accessed 12 Jan. 2022]

Netherlands. March 2019. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Country of Origin Information Report on South and Central Somalia. [Accessed 6 Jan. 2022]

Norway. 21 May 2019. Landinfo. Query Response Somalia: Passport Application at the Somali Embassy in Brussels. [Accessed 7 Jan. 2022]

President, Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE). 13 January 2022. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Radio Dalsan. 2 November 2020. "Somali Parliament Passes Bill to Establish National Identification System." [Accessed 10 Jan. 2022]

Radio Dalsan. N.d. "About Radio Dalsan." [Accessed 12 Jan. 2022]

Somalia. 22 June 2021. Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation (MoIFAR). National Action Plan to End Statelessness in Somalia 2021–2024. [Accessed 10 Jan. 2022]

Somali Development Center (SDC). N.d. "Somali Development Center (SDC)." [Accessed 25 Jan. 2022]

United Nations (UN). 21 January 2022. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in Somalia. Correspondence with a durable solutions officer.

United Nations (UN). 19 January 2022. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in Somalia. Interview with a durable solutions officer.

United States (US). N.d. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. "Somalia Reciprocity Schedule." [Accessed 6 Jan. 2022]

World Bank. 2016. Tariq Malik, et al. Toward a Somali Identification System: ID4D Diagnostic. [Accessed 7 Jan. 2022]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Danish Refugee Council; International Crisis Group; International Rescue Committee; Saferworld; Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke; Somali Centre for Family Services; Somali Public Agenda; Somalia – Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia in Washington, DC, Immigration and Naturalization Directorate; UN – International Labour Organization, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; AllAfrica; Amnesty International; Asylum Research Centre; Austrian Red Cross – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation; Belgium – Commissariat général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides; Bertelsmann Stiftung; Center for Strategic and International Studies; Committed to Good; Daily Sabah; Denmark – Danish Immigration Service; Diplomat News Network; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office; Finland – Finnish Immigration Service; Freedom House; Harvard Law School – International Human Rights Clinic; ID4Africa; Keesing's Documentchecker; Marqaan News Media; Mogadishu Times; Norwegian Refugee Council; Somalia – Immigration and Naturalization Directorate, Ministry of Finance, Somali National News Agency; Rift Valley Institute; UK – Home Office; UN – Human Rights Council, International Organization for Migration, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, Security Council, UNHCR, UNICEF; US – Department of Justice.

Attachments

  1. Baidoa. 2020. Sample of a certificate of identity confirmation. Sent to the Research Directorate by lawyers at law firms in Somalia, the US and Canada, 14 January 2022. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.
  2. Mogadishu. N.d. Sample of a certificate of identity confirmation. Sent to the Research Directorate by a durable solutions officer at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in Somalia, 21 January 2022. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.
  3. Mogadishu. 2019. Sample of a certificate of identity confirmation. Sent to the Research Directorate by lawyers at law firms in Somalia, the US and Canada, 14 January 2022. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.