‘We did everything by the book’

Cape Town - Newlands mother Louise Egedal Johnson felt like a criminal when she was ordered to leave South Africa, her home for more than a decade, and escorted onto a plane to Denmark with her 2-year-old son, Samuel.

Her “crime” was overstaying her Relative’s Permit, despite applying to the Department of Home Affairs for an extension months earlier and a receipt to prove it.

Cape Town mom Louise Egedal Johnson says she felt like a criminal when she was ordered to leave South Africa with her son. Picture: Henk Kruger. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

“You are not informed of your rights. I didn’t have access to food. I didn’t have access to medical treatment. I have a blood condition that I need medicine for, especially on long flights. I wasn’t given access to speak to my embassy. They just put me in an office for hours,” she said of her ordeal at Cape Town International Airport last month.

The 37-year-old, who had to leave her South African husband Brent Johnson behind, said the family had done “everything according to the book” and thought that the “mistake” would be rectified in a few days.

“But it soon became apparent that it would be longer. I might have to be there (in Copenhagen) for years. It felt like our lives were being put in somebody else’s hands. The rug was pulled from under my feet. In the beginning there was just a feeling of disbelief. Then there was a feeling of anger. Then I started thinking why am I even doing this if they don’t want me there (in South Africa).

On Saturday, after a month of being separated, Egedal Johnson and her son, Samuel, were reunited with Brent after the Western Cape High Court granted an interim order last week, which among other things permitted her to enter the country.

“I was very relieved and just excited to be able to go home to my husband. I’ve been here in Cape Town for almost 11 years. This is my home.”

Brent Johnson said the couple’s fight was not yet over because his wife had now been granted a visitor’s visa of 90 days. “So what’s going to happen in three months’ time?”

The next step will involve challenging a section of the new immigration regulations** in court.

“A motivation to continue with the court case is that this might affect the bigger picture. It’s not just about us but other people in the same situation. Also, it puts some focus on the way Home Affairs operate in general. They don’t understand how important it is for all us to have our documents and how draining it is,” said Egedal Johnson.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the High Court came to the rescue of a five-year-old girl after she was declared “undesirable” when the family left the country to holiday in Turkey.

The girl was permitted to enter and remain in South Africa, subject to conditions prescribed by Home Affairs.

The child, the daughter of a high-ranking Cuban UN official, was the only family member without permanent residency, having been born in the US in 2008.

She lived in South Africa on a visitor’s visa, which expired 115 days before she left for Turkey. This was the reason for her being declared indefinitely undesirable.

Although the man, whose name cannot be revealed, travels frequently, the family’s permanent home is in Cape Town.