The human rights groups allege that the drafted regulation calls for the discontinuation of the issuing of birth certificates to foreign children. Picture: Flickr.com
The human rights groups allege that the drafted regulation calls for the discontinuation of the issuing of birth certificates to foreign children. Picture: Flickr.com

Controversy at proposal to discontinue birth certificates for foreign children

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Nov 16, 2018

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Cape Town - Human Rights advocacy groups expressed concern over the Department of Home Affairs' proposed new regulation to the Births and Deaths Registration Act, saying it's a contravention of children’s most basic rights.

The Centre for Child Law, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and the UCT Refugee Law Clinic have come together in a bid to oppose the proposed regulation draft which is still out for public comment.

The human rights groups allege that the drafted regulation calls for the discontinuation of the issuing of birth certificates to foreign children.

Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Liezl Muller said previously all children were issued with birth certificates, as required by the Constitution and international law on children's rights. She said the new regulations propose that foreign children be issued with a “confirmation of birth” which is “not a birth certificate”.

The groups highlighted that the “confirmation of birth” would have to be presented to the embassy in order to obtain a birth certificate from that particular country of nationality.

“This is particularly harmful to refugee and asylum-seeker children, because they cannot approach their embassies, which would jeopardise their protection in South Africa, (and) orphaned and abandoned children who cannot prove their nationalities because their parents are absent, and stateless children who do not have a country of origin,” said Muller.

Home Affairs Department spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said the department would not be able to comment as the public comment and submissions process was still under way.

“We have called for comment. It would be unfair for the department to issue comment now. The deadline for comment is November 16 (today) and once we have gone through the comments and submissions we will be better able to comment.

“We invite all those with objections to make submissions stating their objections,” he said.

Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town’s advocacy officer, Lotte Manicom, said they would be making a submission.

“The creation of a 'confirmation of birth' of children born to foreigners in South Africa is worrying in that it is not a birth certificate and therefore there is no guarantee that such children can access their most basic rights such as a right to a nationality, to an education and to health care. Again, it is in South Africa's own interest to properly register those who are born within its borders,” said Manicom.

Anjuli Maistry of the Centre for Child Law said the inevitable effect would be that non-national children would struggle to register their births.

“Refugee children, stateless children and abandoned children will not be able to obtain a birth certificate at all. They will be excluded from access to services and from the protection they require as children only on account of the fact that they are non-nationals,” she said.

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Cape Argus

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