LHR launches petition to end statelessness in SA

I want a birth certificate so I can go to school.”

This is a 17-year-old’s plea to receive a formal education‚ a basic right she doesn’t have access to because she does not have a birth certificate.

The girl is among many children in South Africa who are undocumented and cannot either go to school‚ visit their families who live abroad and cannot go to clinics or hospitals.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) has‚ as a result‚ started a petition to end statelessness in South Africa.

They want the department of home affairs to write a regulation which will provide guidance and a form to make it possible for stateless children to apply for‚ and obtain‚ citizenship.

The petition currently has more than 500 signatures.

“These children are mostly un documented. Without a birth certificate or ID document they have trouble accessing education‚ health care‚ social grants [and] travel documents‚” the LHR said.

“When a stateless child becomes a stateless adult‚ they are at risk of arrest and deportation‚ cannot legally work or study‚ open a bank account or vote. Childhood statelessness in South Africa is a generally unaddressed‚ largely preventable‚ but growing phenomenon.

“South Africa’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child are such that all children in the country‚ who would otherwise be stateless‚ should have the right to acquire a nationality: no child should be left stateless (Article 7 of the convention).

The 17-year-old was born at home to a foreign mother‚ who died before she could register the birth.

“[She] was placed in a children’s home‚ but the social workers cannot register her birth because there was no South African citizen to witness her birth. [Her] mother was assisted in birth by a non-South African woman. She does not have any provable link to the country of her mother’s birth‚” the LHR said.

According to the LHR‚ when the girl turns 18‚ she will not be considered a child and will be at risk of arrest‚ detention and deportation to a country she has no citizenship in.