Lawyers for Human Rights welcomes the decision by the Makhanda High Court today confirming every child’s right to an education, regardless of immigration status or level of documentation.

Thirty-seven children and the Centre for Child Law, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, challenged the constitutionality of various provisions in the Admissions Policy for Ordinary Public Schools and the Immigration Act, which discriminate against undocumented learners. The provisions require documentation (including birth certificates) for admission to school and even criminalise the act of providing schooling to an undocumented child. The court today confirmed that these provisions are unconstitutional.

“The judgment is a triumph for undocumented children everywhere, particularly those who are stateless, who do not have access to a nationality, and who suffer many multiple human rights abuses and traumas” said Liesl Muller, head of the LHR Statelessness Project.

A stateless child is a child who is not recognised as a citizen by any country in the world, according to the UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. The LHR Statelessness Project provides legal assistance to such children living in South Africa. Many of these children are South African citizens in law, but are deprived of their right to a nationality by the refusal of South African birth certificates by the Department of Home Affairs. Often children are denied birth certificates, simply because they cannot pay the high cost of DNA paternity testing (which can be as high as R2300 for a family of 4), making birth registration inaccessible to the most vulnerable, and criminalising the poor.

LHR submitted expert evidence in support of the case providing the court with concrete examples of real cases where a child has suffered multiple disadvantages for not being documented - due to no fault of her own. LHR advocates for universal birth registration without discrimination based on nationality or documentation; as well as universal access to other fundamental rights regardless of birth registration or lack thereof.

Watch the story of Nozi, our client, who fought bravely for her education and citizenship in South Africa here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56tuOAZlF2g

For the full text of the judgment follow this link: http://lrc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/December/Resources/Phakamisa-judgment-20191212.pdf

For more information please contact: Liesl Muller at 011 339 1960 or liesl [at] lhr [dot] org [dot] za


Similar cases are funded by crowd funding through LHR. If you would like to contribute or become a monthly donor towards legal representation for vulnerable stateless children follow this link: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/save-50-children-from-statelessness-in-southafrica/#menu