End Childhood Statelessness in South Africa
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Stateless children in South Africa are children who live in South Africa, and are even sometimes born in South Africa, but do not have the citizenship of South Africa or any other country in the world. These children are mostly undocumented. Without a birth certificate or ID document they have trouble accessing education; health care; social grants; and travel documents.
When a stateless child becomes a stateless adult, they are at risk of arrest and deportation, cannot legally work or study, open a bank account or vote. Childhood statelessness in South Africa is a generally unaddressed, largely preventable, but growing phenomenon. Download this short publication to read the stories of stateless children in South Africa: http://www.lhr.org.za/sites/lhr.org.za/files/childhood_statelessness_in_south_africa.pdf
The publication presents the experiences of nine children who have been let down by the system, denied their right to acquire a nationality and rendered stateless in South Africa. The many issues that come to rise through their stories and the proposed solutions were brought to the attention of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) in a joint submission to the Committee in 2015. South Africa’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are such that all children in the country who would otherwise be stateless, should have the right to acquire a nationality: no child should be left stateless (Article 7 of the Convention). This obligation is reiterated in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition Article 28 of the South African Constitution protects the right of every child to a name and a nationality from birth and more broadly protects a common citizenship. Despite its international and domestic obligations, South Africa’s legislative framework collectively creates and perpetuates childhood statelessness. Discrimination in the South African Citizenship Act, 1995 can be seen in the stories illustrated in this publication. Positive provisions are constrained by restrictive birth registration requirements of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA), 1992, which can lead to statelessness. The Immigration Act, 2004 also fails stateless unaccompanied migrant children who cannot be returned to their country of origin by not providing them with a legal immigration status. South Africa is regrettably not a signatory to the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The above can be changed by the Department of Home Affairs of South Africa by changing legislation and pratices as decribed in the publication here: http://www.lhr.org.za/sites/lhr.org.za/files/childhood_statelessness_in_south_africa.pdf
- The Department of Home Affairs
Mr Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs South Africa
Please End Childhood Statelessness in South Africa by doing the following:
I. Ensure that national laws, regulations and policies are in line with South Africa’s obligations under international law to ensure the right of every child to acquire a nationality, and to prevent childhood statelessness. In particular, guarantee the right to acquire a nationality for all otherwise stateless children born in South Africa, regardless of the parents’ nationality or statelessness, or of their legal status.
II. Amend legislation that creates barriers to accessing birth registration. In particular, the legal status of the parent should not determine whether a child’s birth can be registered or not, nor should the imposition of a short time limit for birth registration. Furthermore, the birth registration of foundling children must be clarified and implemented.
III. Address the current gap in the law which allows particularly vulnerable children who are stateless or at risk of statelessness, to reach adulthood without having accessed South African nationality. In particular, make provision for an immigration status and an identifying document for unaccompanied and separated migrant children in order to facilitate naturalisation.
IV. Take further measures to reduce and ultimately eradicate existing cases of statelessness, particularly among children, including through retroactive implementation of safeguards to provide a nationality to stateless children born on the territory, and through ensuring that the loss, deprivation or renunciation of the parent’s nationality does not result in the deprivation of the child’s nationality.
V. Accede to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Detailed recommendations for legislative changes and case studies can be found in this document: http://www.lhr.org.za/sites/lhr.org.za/files/childhood_statelessness_in_south_africa.pdf
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