„The registry office insinuates that we are married“

This is a translation of an interview with Sally Margrate* by journalist Marie Gogoll published in taz, 4th February 2021. Read the German version here. Sally Margrate is mother of a child without a birth certificate and part of Together we are Bremen. With many affected women and other activists of the group she organized a rally in front of the ministry of interior on 4th February 2021. Find a report about the action and the demands in taz 5th February

taz: Ms. Margrate, why are you demonstrating in front of the seat of the Senator of the Interior?

Sally Margrate: We are demanding birth certificates for our children. The fathers have officially acknowledged their paternity, we have fulfilled all the conditions for a birth certificate. Yet there are many children who still don’t have a birth certificate, yet some are over a year old.

Impressions of the protest in front of Bremer Innenbehörde @ Contrescarpe (Fotos: Jana Sabeth for TWAB)

taz: Why doesn’t the registry office issue birth certificates?

Sally: The registry office assumes that we women are married. Then the husband would automatically be the legal father of our children. Although the real fathers have long since confirmed paternity, the authorities do not believe us. They demand proof from us that we are not married.

taz: What kind of proof do they want?

Sally: They do not accept the evidence. For example, because I was married before, I was supposed to show my divorce papers to the registry office. I did that, but they didn’t accept them. Instead, I was supposed to bring my old marriage certificate as proof. In what sovereign state do you get your invalid marriage certificate after you’ve just been issued divorce papers? That’s not how it works. This is an insult against us and our states of origin.

taz: Why does the registry office imply that you are married?

Sally: We are sure that discrimination is the reason. We gave birth to the children here, the father acknowledged paternity, but the authorities refuse to recognize it. We give them all the documents they want, and they refuse to recognize. Some of the mothers were even never married before and they have provided all the proof, which by the way also costs a lot of money. The fact that all this is being questioned can be traced back to discrimination.

taz: Are there consequences if birth certificates are missing?

Sally: Yes. One of the biggest problems is that the women do not get a residence permit as a result. That means the mothers are not allowed to work and could be deported. Many mothers have even received letters asking them to leave the country. In addition, a birth certificate is needed to register the child with the health insurance company. Therefore, many children do not have health insurance. The registry office thinks we are only interested in financial support from the state, like child benefits. But this is not true. We don’t want help, we just want the birth certificates for our children.

taz: In response to complaints from your group, the Administrative Court has ruled that paternity acknowledgment would also suffice for a residence title for the mother. The birth certificate would therefore not be necessary in order to issue the residence permit for the mother. Has the ruling changed anything in the approach of the Migration Office?

Sally: No. That is why our protest is not only directed against the registry office, but also against the migration office. Although we have the paternity acknowledgments, we still do not have residence permits. We cannot understand what is going on here. That is why we go with our demands in front of the office of the Senator of the Interior, despite Corona and despite snow.

* In fear of further discrimination the activist didn`t want to see her real name published here