LRC welcomes confirmation that children born to undocumented parents are entitled to a DHA-19 birth certificate
Source: Legal Resources Centre (South Africa)
Birth certificate issued to child born to undocumented parent
In December 2017, the LRC was approached by a Congolese asylum seeker whose wife was heavily pregnant. He was seeking legal advice about her status in South Africa. Shortly after meeting our client, his wife gave birth to their son. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) officials at the hospital where their son was born refused to issue the child with a birth certificate. Our client tried on more than one occasion to register the birth of his son. The refusal to issue the birth certificate was solely based on the fact that the mother was undocumented at the time of the birth, as her asylum application had been rejected.
The LRC found fault with this reasoning. Section 28 of the Constitution provides that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth. The LRC is of the view that this right includes the right to have the birth registered. We argue that this right is inherent to all children, regardless of nationality or the status of their parents. This right belongs to the child and not to the parents.
After back and forth correspondence, the DHA Director of Births, Marriages, Deaths and Records Management confirmed that the child’s best interest can be served by issuing him with the DHA-19 birth certificate to which he is entitled. The DHA further confirmed that the child would be entitled to this birth certificate, even if his mother is undocumented.
We welcome this confirmation from the DHA and are happy to announce that on 10 April 2018 the child received his birth certificate.
While this birth certificate does not give him citizenship, it does give him documentation which, for many children in his position, is invaluable for accessing rights and provides him with dignity. The LRC has been involved in several matters concerning undocumented children and are aware of the countless barriers and challenges they face, in particular accessing basic education. We remain concerned with the apparent misunderstanding or unwillingness by DHA officials to issue DHA-19 birth certificates to children in similar positions. We call on the Director of Births, Marriages, Deaths and Records Management to issue a directive to all DHA offices confirming that children born to undocumented parents are entitled to a DHA-19 birth certificate.