Settlement gives stateless children in SA hope

2016-09-06 19:01
Department of Home Affairs office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Department of Home Affairs office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Home Affairs has agreed at the eleventh hour to grant South African citizenship to a stateless child born in South Africa, opening the way for others in the same predicament, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said on Tuesday.

Following a two-year wait, the Supreme Court of Appeal was supposed to have heard the matter on Tuesday. However, the department decided at the last minute to withdraw its appeal against a ruling by the High Court in Pretoria.

According to LHR, the department agreed that:

  • The child would be declared a South African citizen by birth;
  • The department would comply with a High Court order and issue her a South African identity number and birth certificate;
  • The home affairs minister would add regulations to section 2(2) of the South African Citizenship Act within 18 months, to allow other stateless children to apply for citizenship.

The case involved an 8-year-old girl whose Cuban parents came to South Africa for work. She was born in Cape Town in 2008.

Cuban law does not allow children to obtain Cuban citizenship if they are born outside Cuba to parents considered “permanent emigrants” - those who have lived outside Cuba for more than 11 months.

Too many children

LHR said Section 2(2) of the Citizenship Act gives citizenship to such children born in South Africa. The department had refused to implement this, leaving the child stateless for eight years.

She had been unable to get a South African ID and access to services this document and number provides. Nor could she get any Cuban papers. She would not have been able to leave South Africa either.

The department had been planning to appeal on the basis that too many children were expected to apply for citizenship.

“However, there is no basis to believe that an inordinate amount of children will qualify for citizenship under this section. It is a preventative measure for special cases and will protect the most vulnerable of children,” LHR said.

“It applies to children born in South Africa who do not have a claim to another country's citizenship.”

Comment from the department's spokesperson was not immediately available.

Read more on:    human rights

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