x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Princess Haya to help 'non-existent' Leen

"I see hope now," says mother of three-year-old girl with no official identity after her father left the country.

Leen Omar plays in her home last week. Her mother cannot obtain identity and residency documents for her because her father left the country.
Leen Omar plays in her home last week. Her mother cannot obtain identity and residency documents for her because her father left the country.

ABU DHABI // Princess Haya bint Al Hussain, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has stepped in to help the three-year-old girl who has been described by her mother as "officially non-existent" because she has been denied identity documents.

"Alhamdulila I see hope now," the girl's mother said yesterday. "Since they are aware of it, I trust she will be fine."

Leen Omar was born in Abu Dhabi in February 2007, but cannot travel outside the country, receive state services or even be registered for nursery school. The problem is that the girl's father, OM, left the country after he divorced Leen's mother, and it has proved impossible for her to obtain a passport without him.

"I am really happy and extremely optimistic now," said Leen's mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity, yesterday.

She said she communicated with Princess Haya's office, where an employee asked her to send "all documents" she had. An official at the Princess's office confirmed yesterday they had offered to help, but no details were available on what would be done.

The Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Interior has also said it would assist them. An official said he would highlight the issue to higher authorities and "see what could be done".

Leen's mother, a Palestinian-Syrian, said an officer at the ministry called her after the story was published in The National this week and said "they are very concerned about the girl's situation" and would try to help.

The Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance and the Appellate Court have already ruled that the father must provide financial support for the child and her mother, not abandon them, register Leen as his daughter and obtain all necessary immigration documents, including a passport for his daughter.

The father, who is Jordanian, initially denied Leen was his daughter, but DNA tests have confirmed she is his child. However, Leen's mother said that despite the most recent ruling, in March 2009, nothing had changed. The Jordanian embassy told the mother it could not issue any documents for the girl if the father did not show up, "even after 20 years".

Leen’s mother cannot get a passport for her child because she does not have a Syrian passport, only immigration documents for Palestinian refugees issued by the Syrian government.

OM had sponsored Leen’s mother to stay in the UAE when they were married. But she had no legal status after they divorced in August 2006. Out of fear of deportation, she gave birth to Leen in her home, which is illegal.

The mother filed a lawsuit on August 23, 2007, six months after Leen was born, demanding he acknowledge her as his daughter. She asked the court to bar him from travel until court proceedings had finished.

OM claimed that the girl was born before the date of their marriage. However, Leen’s mother told the judge the marriage took place in Syria in January 2006 but was only registered in July 2007. OM agreed to a DNA test, which proved he was Leen’s biological father.

Although the father was barred from leaving the country, he used the court’s decision to justify a trip to Jordan, saying he needed to process the necessary papers. That move, according to an independent lawyer, was illegal.

Before Ramadan, the mother travelled to Syria to attend a family funeral but Leen had to be left behind because she does not have travel documents. Because Leen does not have a passport, she cannot obtain a residence visa and, therefore, cannot have access to state services, health insurance or education services. Her mother tried to register her in a nursery this year, but the school told her Leen needed official documents.

“I hope [the Princess’ office and Ministry of Interior] will help me find a solution for my daughter or at least guide me to someone who can,” the mother said.

hhassan@thenational.ae