Cape Town - Reunions are on the cards for two families following a landmark decision in the Western Cape High Court on Monday after new Home Affairs regulations branded one family member “undesirable”.
Judge James Yekiso’s decision has set a precedent for all foreigners living in South Africa affected by the new regulations, which came into effect without warning on May 26.
Judge Yekiso found that the matters were urgent, that officials had not exercised their discretion appropriately, that the families were suffering prejudice and were not considered a threat to the security of the country.
Foreigners will probably also have to go the legal route – but at least this judgment means relief is in sight.
For the families of Brent Johnson and Cherene Delorie, who both brought their immigration woes before the court in an urgent application, the relief was immediate.
Johnson’s wife, Louise Egedal Johnson, was forced to return to her native Denmark with their son Samuel, 2, after being labeled undesirable following a family trip to Namibia earlier this month.
As Johnson left court on Monday, he said the first thing he was going to do was buy them plane tickets home.
“I’m overjoyed with this decision, but I’m still immensely angry it had to come to this,” he said. “There’s no apology for the way we were treated, or for putting my wife’s life in danger.”
She was held at Cape Town International Airport for six hours, and forbidden to fetch the medication she needed before boarding her flight to Denmark.
Also leaving court elated was Delorie, who rushed off to phone her husband and young sons to tell them the good news.
“They’re going to be so happy,” she said. “I’m very relieved. I really hope (the judgment) helps other people who don’t have the facility of a lawyer.”
Delorie’s husband, David Henderson, was forbidden to return to South Africa after a business trip to Zimbabwe revealed he had overstayed a work permit and was branded “undesirable”. He is also permitted to return to the country immediately.
For immigration attorney Craig Smith, the judgment was not only a victory for these two families, but a step in the right direction for all potential “undesirables”.
“We will study this judgment because it will set a precedent for other cases,” he said.
He said his firm of immigration attorneys alone had received around 100 requests for legal help due to the new regulations.
“We’ve had a host of similarly affected foreign people. Our firm is engaged every single day with this issue.” The next step involved challenging the new directive and regulations in court. Smith hopes they will be judged unconstitutional and scrapped. However, that is likely to take a year to come before court.