This is Home is a campaign that documents the lives of inspiring young people in South Africa who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless.
Being stateless essentially means you are not recognised by any state. South Africa is home for many people who know no other place, having either lived in South Africa from a young age or being born here. Their legal status in the country is uncertain.
Many of these young people are unable to perform certain tasks critical to functioning as a part of society. This includes registering in institutions of higher learning, accessing banking services, obtaining a drivers’ license, and finding stable employment. This is largely a result of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) failure to process applications for citizenship by naturalisation and permanent residence by exemption. It is worth noting that Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) has submitted applications for citizenship by naturalisation and permanent residence by exemption applications dating as far back as 2018 with no outcome on these applications to date.
This is not all: the closure of the citizenship section in DHA, in March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has further exacerbated this delay and backlog. The consequences are detrimental, in that young people born to refugees and asylum seekers are usually unregistered in their parent's country of birth, being unregistered in South Africa places them at risk of statelessness.
Linked to this is the closure of the permanent residence visa section. This means that youth born to permanent residence holders who were previously refugees cannot apply to be linked as dependents on their parents’ files. Young people, being 18 years old and above, have until the age of 21 years to be dependents under their parents’ permanent residence files.
It is with the above context in mind that the #ThisIsHome campaign will be calling for the following:
•South Africa to ratify the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
•South Africa needs to adopt a National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness.
•The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to provide outcomes on the already submitted permanent residence by exemption and citizenship by naturalisation applications.
•The DHA to re-open the permanent residence and citizenship sections of the department.
• A special dispensation needs to be added as a legal avenue for vulnerable persons to document themselves particularly youth in Child and Youth Centres (CYCC) who are at risk of statelessness.
•The DHA to stop the practice of de-linking young people born to refugees and asylum seekers from their parents’ files.
Why is this important?
Statelessness is something that can affect all people, even those born in South Africa. We see it as a missed opportunity, young, ambitious, and inspiring young people are not able to fully participate in society.
Imagine having come to a country at a young age or having being born here and not being recognised as a citizen. You know no other people, no other city, no other languages than what you have learned here. South Africa is your home.
Statelessness is exacerbated by gaps in the implementation of citizenship laws this has been compounded by the current closure of services at the Department of Home Affairs under the COVID-19 national lockdown.
Statelessness is often not known about but is preventable. This campaign provides practical solutions towards preventing statelessness in South Africa. Join us in letting the Department of Home Affairs know.
How it will be delivered
This signature campaign will be delivered to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs parliamentary members.
Check out the Campaign on Facebook: (20+) Jesuit Refugee Service Southern Africa | Facebook