Xolisa Phillip News editor
A migrant child waits in line at a Department of Home Affairs office. The Legal Resources Centre says that section 28 of the Constitution 'provides that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth'. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
A migrant child waits in line at a Department of Home Affairs office. The Legal Resources Centre says that section 28 of the Constitution 'provides that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth'. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Children born in SA to undocumented migrants are entitled to home affairs-issued birth certificates, in what is a major victory for migrants and the Legal Resources Centre.

The centre announced on Thursday that, after much "back and forth" with the Department of Home Affairs, the department’s "director of births, marriages, deaths and records management confirmed that [it was] ... best to [issue] the DHA-19 birth certificate ..."

However, the birth certificate does not entitle its recipients to citizenship in SA.

The centre intervened after being approached by a Congolese asylum seeker whose newborn son was refused a birth certificate by home affairs officials at the hospital where the baby was born.

"Our client tried on more than one occasion to register the birth of his son. The refusal to issue the birth certificate was solely based on the fact that the mother was undocumented at the time of the birth, as her asylum application had been rejected," said the centre in a statement on Thursday.

The centre pointed out that section 28 of the Constitution "provides that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth". It was of the view that "this right includes the right to have the birth registered. We argue that this right is inherent to all children, regardless of nationality or the status of their parents. This right belongs to the child and not to the parents.

"While this birth certificate does not give ... citizenship, it does give ... documentation, which, for many children in his position, is invaluable for accessing rights and provides him with dignity," it said.

However, barriers remained, pertaining to officials’ understanding of the status quo.

"We call on the director of births, marriages, deaths and records management to issue a directive to all DHA offices confirming that children born to undocumented parents are entitled to a DHA-19 birth certificate," the centre said.

phillipx@businesslive.co.za