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India trying to help out Swiss NRIs

NRIs in Switzerland are in a crisis, because of the country's insistence on original birth and marriage certificates to register new borns.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2006 14:48 IST

India is exploring ways to bail out its nationals in Switzerland who are facing a crisis because of that country's insistence on seeing the original official birth and marriage certificates issued in India to register their new born. Most Indians there don't possess what the Swiss seek.

A desperate New Delhi is hoping to rope in Indian Catholic leaders to see if they can help end the messy row in the predominantly Catholic nation. It is also looking at other possible ways of resolving the Indian predicament.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said that he wants Indian Catholics to speak to their counterparts in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities have refused to accept the marriage certificates or baptism certificates issued by churches in India as a substitute for government issued documents. This is in line with a new Swiss law.

But most Indians living in Switzerland say that they never registered their marriages or births in India because this was not mandatory during their times. The Supreme Court in India has in recent times made such registration a must.

What has compounded the problem is the Swiss refusal to accept even the birth dates given in Indian passports as authentic Indian documents. Naturally, the Indian population in Switzerland is in a quandary.

"The marriage or baptism certificates are considered as authentic records in India. The passports are issued on the basis of that. It is absurd if they are not accepting our system as foolproof," said Ravi, who this month visited Switzerland and two other countries and interacted with the Indian population.

Pointing out that Roman Catholics were an influential community in Switzerland, Ravi said he planned to discuss the issue with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).

"The Catholic leadership may be able to convince their counterparts in Switzerland about the authenticity of our church documents," Ravi told IANS.

As the Indian community there consists of a sizeable population of Christians from Kerala, the minister said the Catholic leadership might be able to help resolve the crisis.

"We are exploring various options. I am also taking up the issue with the prime minister," Ravi said.

Until the problem is resolved, children born to Indian nationals in Switzerland will not get their births registered.

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