Press Release: LRC challenges the failure of Home Affairs to register child born to foreign mother

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The Legal Resources Centre has launched an application in the Makhanda High Court, acting on behalf of two parents who have sought to register their child’s birth in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992.

Their application for registration has been rejected by the Department of Home Affairs’ because the child’s mother does not have a valid visa and is therefore considered “illegal”.

Mr Lawrence Naki, a South African citizen, works for the South African National Defence Force and met his wife when he was sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on a peace keeping mission. On his second visit to DRC the couple got married. They have two children together – the oldest is currently living in the DRC.

The couple cannot register the birth of their South African-born child, even though their child is a South African citizen in terms of the Citizenship Act. On their behalf, the LRC is challenging Regulation 3(3)(f), read with Regulation (3)(5), of the Births and Deaths Registration Act which prohibits the registration of a birth where either one of the parents is not lawfully present in the country at the time the registration is sought.

We argue that the Department of Home Affairs’ interpretation of the Regulations is incorrect and that, properly interpreted, Mr Naki, the child’s father, alone should be able to register his daughter’s birth, notwithstanding the fact that the mother is not lawfully present in South Africa.

If the court finds that Home Affairs’ interpretation is correct, then the couple seek to have Regulation 3(3)(f) declared unreasonable administrative action in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000, and to declare the regulation inconsistent with national legislation, including the Citizenship Act 88 of 1995, in particular Section 2(1)(b) of the Act, which grants citizenship to anyone born in South Africa, as well as sections 20, 27, 28 and 29 of the Constitution.

We will argue that:

  1. Not registering the birth of the child violates her right not to be deprived of citizenship, entrenched in section 20 of the Constitution;
  2. Section 28(1)(a) of the Constitution entrenches the right of every child to a name and nationality from birth. The recognition of a child’s nationality is intimately linked to the recognition of their citizenship.
  3. Not registering the birth of the child violates her rights to social assistance and social security, entrenched in Section 27 of the Constitution. Without a birth certificate, she cannot access these benefits.
  4. Not registering the birth of the child violates her right to education. The National Admissions to Public Schools Policy requires children to have a birth certificate when applying for admission to a school.

The delay in the registration of their child’s birth is severely prejudicial to the couple’s right to family life as the mother has been forced to return to the DRC without her minor child in order to attend to their other daughter and resolve the issues around her right to remain in South Africa.
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