Johannesburg - Children born in SA to foreign parents are entitled to apply for citizenship, the Western Cape High Court ruled on Thursday, the Legal Resources Centre said.
"The LRC are pleased with the judgment which affirms the rights of our clients to be treated with dignity and not to be rendered non-citizens through the wrongful interpretation of statutes," said LRC spokesperson Claire Martens in a statement.
Martens said the ruling applied even if the children were born before the 2010 Amendment, which came into effect in 2013.
She said the applicants, represented by the LRC, were all born in SA to foreign parents before 2013 and majority of them were now over 18.
"They meet the requirements for applying for citizenship in terms of section 4(3) of the Citizenship Act, in that they were born in South Africa and have lived here since their births, and they have birth certificates attesting to their birth in South Africa," she said.
'Vulnerable to hostilities'
Martens said the department of home affairs had refused to consider their applications for citizenship.
"The LRC approached the High Court on behalf of the applicants, arguing that the refusal to consider the applications for citizenship is prejudicial to our clients in a real way, having not only practical implications but also infringing on constitutional entitlements.
"But not allowing them citizenship, the department is consigning them, unlawfully, to remain as non-citizens in the country that they have lived in since birth and is the only country they know."
Martens said the non-citizen status also rendered the applicants "vulnerable to hostilities" directed at them.
She said judgment agreed that there were constitutional entitlements at stake, including the right to dignity.
"It further states that the applicants have a statutory right to apply for citizenship and the respondents cannot limit or interfere with this right by contending that no prejudice flows."
While the court did not direct the department to provide the applicants with citizenship, Martens said it directed the department to accept the applications for citizenship from the applicants and make a decision on the applications within 10 days.
"The court also directed that the Amendment Act must be interpreted to include children born before 2013," said Martens.