SA adopts stateless baby

08 July 2014 - 02:01 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
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Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

After a six-year legal battle, a girl born in South Africa to Cuban parents has a country she can call home.

Yesterday, the girl's mother said she was able to sleep again after the Pretoria High Court last week ruled that her daughter was a South African citizen, and that the Department of Home Affairs had acted unlawfully by not registering her as such.

The Cape Town family - with the help of nonprofit organisation Lawyers for Human Rights - went to court after both South Africa and Cuba refused the child citizenship.

In 2008, when the child was born in Cape Town, the Department of Home Affairs issued a birth certificate but not an identity number because her parents did not have permanent residency at the time.

Cuba also refused to recognise the child because her parents had been absent from their home country for more than 11 months.

Without an identity number, the parents could not obtain a passport on which the girl could travel to meet her family in Cuba, and her parents could not look for jobs in other countries unless they left her in South Africa.

"We were stuck here in South Africa," the child's mother said. "I lost several job opportunities overseas. Her father lost a job opportunity in Brazil."

The lack of an ID also made the child vulnerable.

"I was not able to prove who my daughter was without a DNA test," the mother said.

In its ruling, the court ordered the Department of Home Affairs to enter the girl's name in the national population register, issue her with a South African identity document and re-issue her birth certificate with an identity number.

The court further ordered that a regulation be made under the SA Citizenship Act to ensure that other families do not have to go through a similar nightmare.

Lawyers for Human Rights argued that the department was violating the child's constitutional right to "a name and nationality from birth".

"The violation of her rights will only increase as she becomes older and tries to write her matric, apply to university, open a bank account and access a range of other social services and rights," the organisation said in a letter to the department.

In its reply, the department said the child qualified to be issued with a permit for permanent residence, but the parents were demanding that she receive citizenship.

The department opposed the court application but failed to file an opposing affidavit.

The girl's mother said she was relieved that her child had a home.

"I feel that justice has been done at last; no child should be exposed to the condition of being stateless. It goes against human rights.

"My child, like anyone else, has the right to citizenship at birth, to have a homeland."

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