United States authorities revealed this week that three babies were delivered during evacuation efforts from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country.
One of the babies was born on a C-17 military plane, while the other two were born in a hospital at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
Citizenship in Germany is determined by ancestry from a German legal mother and/or father rather than birth on German soil. However, because the child was delivered in the cargo hold of a US plane, it's unclear which rules will apply in this case: German laws, US laws or if the baby will be considered a citizen of Afghanistan.
Citizenship of a child born mid-air is not straightforward because different countries have their own policies on this matter. So let's take a look at the laws.
US citizenship laws regarding children born in flights
A person can become a citizen of the United States either by birth or naturalisation.
All aircraft must have the nationality of the country in which they are registered, according to the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation. They cannot have multiple nationalities.
As a result, under the 1944 Convention, the nationality law of the aircraft's "nationality" may be applicable for births, and for births that occur in flight while the aircraft is not within the territory or airspace of any State, it may be the only applicable law regarding acquisition of citizenship by place of birth.
According to the US State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual, if the aircraft is in or flying over the territory of another State, that State may also have concurrent jurisdiction.
Furthermore, even if the aircraft is registered in the United States but is operating outside the country's airspace, a child born on such an aircraft cannot get US citizenship solely on the basis of place of birth.
Meanwhile, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, military bases outside the United States are not considered part of the country "in relation to birthright citizenship." According to the State Department, a baby delivered on a US-registered aircraft outside of US airspace is not regarded to be born in the United States.
However, if the aircraft is in, or flying over the territory of another State, that State may also have
What about children of refugees?
The subject of citizenship for the Afghan woman's child is complicated by the fact that her mother is a refugee. It's unclear whether the woman traveled alone or with her family, or when she left Afghanistan. The plane she was in had taken off from a Middle Eastern intermediate staging facility.
A document published by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles says that, "Refugee children born in exile are particularly exposed to the risk of statelessness. While most of them, in principle, inherit their parents' nationality, many of them do not, for example due to sex-based discrimination in the nationality law of the parents' country of origin. Several refugee children automatically acquire their parents' nationality at birth, but this nationality will often only exist in theory, as parents are prevented from registering their child with authorities of the country of origin".