Visa rules jailing our kids, says mom
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Durban - A Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has launched a “public interest” high court application seeking to scrap controversial regulations governing travelling with children, arguing they are unconstitutional and contravene international conventions governing children’s rights.
The mother of two – who cannot be named to protect the identities of her two children, aged eight and 11 – says they and many other children are “prisoners” in South Africa because of the rule, effective from June this year, requiring the consent in an affidavit of any non-travelling parent for any child entering or leaving the country.
Her children have this year already been stopped from boarding a flight to visit their grandparents in England, resulting in her also having to cancel a paper presentation in Paris.
In the application set down in the Durban High Court next week, she seeks an immediate order that she be allowed to travel with her children these Christmas holidays without the consent of their uninvolved, alcoholic father, pending the outcome of her broader challenge which, she says, should be treated as one in the public interest “because it has direct relevance to many people”.
Since the regulations were enforced, The Mercury has been contacted by many, mainly single, parents who complain that for differing reasons, getting the consent of the other parent is impossible.
One, a professional woman, said she could no longer do business in neighbouring states let alone take an overseas holiday because she had not had any contact with the father of her daughter – and did not want any contact with him – for seven years.
The newspaper also recently reported on a Durban father who obtained an order forcing the mother to sign consent so he could take his son on holiday this Christmas.
In her application, the professor – who is a British citizen – says her ex-husband still lives in England in a home for unrehabilitated alcoholics.
He has no interest and very little contact with the children and every time she needs something from him he extorts money for co-operation.
“He does not fulfil any parental responsibilities. He pays no maintenance. The only time he sees the children is when I make the effort to take them to visit him. He never phones, or writes,” she said.
“In 2012, when I needed his consent for us to live in South Africa, he asked for £1 000 (R21 500).
“When I contacted him in September this year about the consent affidavit he demanded £250.
She said there was “always a bribe” and she was not prepared to pay, “which means that they – and I because I would not leave them – are prisoners here”.
She said the regulations conflicted with the Children’s Act because they ignored the fact that not every parent named on a birth certificate would have acquired parental responsibilities and rights, such as fathers who disappeared soon after birth. It also ignored circumstances in which a biological father not named on the birth certificate had acquired those rights in terms of the act.
With regard to the stated reasons for the regulation – to stop trafficking – she said this crime rarely occurred through major ports of entry and organised criminals could easily obtain fraudulent documents.
Parental abductions, she said, were handled effectively through the Hague Convention which dictated the return of the child.
“Any legislation aimed at preventing abductions and trafficking must be applauded. But the minister of home affairs has not in any way demonstrated why this regulation is really necessary. It cannot be said to be in the best interests of children.”
The minister has until the end of this week to file any notice of opposition.