Four child and human rights organisations have added their voice to calls by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for South Africa to scrap plans to stop issuing birth certificates to foreign children.
The Centre for Child Law, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and the University of Cape Tow’s Refugee Law Clinic today issued a statement in which they sharply criticised proposed changes to the Births and Deaths Registration Act aimed at stopping the issuing of birth certificates to foreign children.
Where all children were previously issued with birth certificates as required by international law on children’s rights, the new regulations propose that foreign children should be issued with a mere “confirmation of birth” certificate and that they should then apply to their embassies for birth certificates from their countries of nationality.
The organisations said that in terms of international law, it was the responsibility of the country of birth to issue a birth certificate, regardless of whether citizenship had also been granted.
They said it violated children’s constitutional right to a name and nationality and various international law instruments and amounted to unfair discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin and birth.
“This is particularly harmful to refugee and asylum seeker children because they cannot go to to their embassies, which would jeopardise their protection in South Africa [and to] orphaned and abandoned children who cannot prove their nationalities because their parents are absent and children who do not have a country of nationality,” they said.
They said the department wanted to remove birth registration for foreign children entirely despite a recommendation by the UN child rights committee that South Africa remove all requirements under legislation and regulations dealing with birth registration and nationality that may have punitive or discriminatory impacts on certain groups of children.
“Without a birth certificate children face immense barriers to basic services and human rights such as education, health and social services. The birth certificate also allows stateless children to apply for safeguards which give them citizenship where they have no other citizenship.
“…Our courts have consistently found that it’s in the best interest of the child to have a birth certificate and access to a nationality”,” the organisations said.