Hundreds of children are forced into undocumented lives and denied their basic rights due to their parents’ documentation status. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre call for the South African government to amend regulations around birth registration to ensure that a child’s right to birth registration is not contingent on their parents’ documents.
The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre are releasing a video on this issue to raise awareness and advocate for the amendment of the regulations on birth registration relating to children born to undocumented parents.
A birth certificate is a vital document. It establishes a child’s identity, nationality and existence in a state. It is required to access services such as education and health. Without a birth certificate, a child does not ‘exist’ in the state’s eyes. This child cannot access school, is at risk of statelessness and is vulnerable to falling under the radar of child protection services. Hundreds of children exist in this shadow-state, due to the restrictive rules around birth registration in South Africa.
Children are being penalised and are denied their constitutional right to birth registration – simply because their parents hold expired documents.
Regulations that govern the application of the Birth and Deaths Registration Act require that a parent wishing to register the birth of their child must hold a valid document in South Africa. Whilst this might seem like a logical requirement of foreigners in South Africa, ensuring valid documentation in South Africa can be complex and, sometimes, impossible. For example, the ongoing closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office has forced asylum seekers into travelling long distances to remain documented. Long queues, denied access and corruption exasperate the difficulties around extending permits.
As a parent with an expired permit, you are not able to register the birth of your child. As Sindisiwe Moyo of Scalabrini explains in the video, this means that ‘the country is sitting with a huge number of children who are not known to exist in South Africa’.
In early July 2018, the High Court of South Africa, Grahamstown Division, declared the birth registration regulations unconstitutional in that they denied birth certificates to those children whose parents could not fulfil documentation requirements. The case, brought by Lawyers for Human Rights, Legal Resources Centre and the Centre of Child Law, is welcomed by the civil society sector. The judgement echoes the calls of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which officially recommended that South Africa change the regulations around birth registration.
With this video, we are calling on the South African government to urgently repeal and edit the regulations around birth registration in South Africa. Birth registration is a constitutional right of a child and cannot be dependent on their parents’ documentation status.