Childhood Statelessness in South Africa
Source: Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa) and Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
Childhood statelessness in South Africa is a generally unaddressed, largely preventable, but growing phenomenon. This short 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 2015.1 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.
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