Pretoria – The Department of Home Affairs says it applies the law when it determines and records the identity and status of persons.
The statement follows media reports claiming that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) may probe why children born to foreign parents are not automatically awarded citizenship.
The reports further allege that the SAHRC leadership is unaware birth certificates are not issued to these children.
“Section 28 of the Constitution outlines rights to which children are entitled, including the right to a name and nationality. The SA Citizenship Act, 1995 (Act No. 88 of 2005), as amended by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act No. 17 of 2010), translates and gives effect to the Constitution’s provisions.
“Expanding on citizenship in South Africa, it says it is obtained by birth, descent or naturalisation,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday.
The department said the basic principle of the South African citizenship is that a child follows the citizenship or nationality of his or her parents. If one parent is a South African citizen, the child will be a citizen by birth.
“A foreign child adopted by South African citizens becomes a citizen by descent, while a naturalised citizen is one who has complied with the requirements for naturalisation, as set out in section 5 of the South African Citizenship Act.
“It is a difficult thing to issue a birth certificate where grounds for citizenship are not established, whether in terms of birth, descent or naturalisation. Citizenship is not in every country based on nationality of territory,” the department said.
According to the department, children born of permanent residents follow their parents’ status.
“We do not separate children from parents. What can be done is to record notice of birth of the child. Such notification of birth can thereafter be taken to the parents’ countries of origin for registration and issuance of passport, after which the child will be issued with a derivative permanent residence permit status, upon application,” the department said.
The issue that poses a serious challenge involves children whose parents are in the country illegally.
“Some of the parents do not come forward to regularise their stay, thus disadvantaging their own children. Logically, the longer parents fail to come out of the woods to have themselves documented, thus making themselves lawful in SA, the harder it is to save the children,” the department said.
The department said it is the norm in many countries for parents to declare the name, surname and date of birth of their children.
“Yet we have cases where parents fail to take responsibility to safeguard their children’s identity and nationality, precisely because they themselves are in the country illegally.
“South Africa has gone out of its way to assist people, even by extending special permit dispensations to nationals of Zimbabwe and Lesotho, who are in South Africa illegally, to regularise their stay,” the department said.
The department said there are those who did not come out in the open, despite a moratorium on deportations.
“Not all persons are in South Africa with conscious intentions to stay [here]. There are those who would want to go back home when their business is done. Issuing birth certificates is handled with utmost care, as it serves to confirm nationality,” the department said.
The department said it welcomes any probe, which follows the legal framework within which rights to citizenship in South Africa are protected.