Foreigner in his own country
Cape Town teen with Ghanaian parents says battle to obtain SA citizenship could ruin his education
WHILE the government mulls over proposed regulations that, if enacted, will deny birth certificates to children born in South Africa of foreign parents, a Cape Town teenager has spoken of his frustration with the naturalisation process.
Khayelitsha resident Ebenezer Odei, 18, is applying for citizenship, despite being born in South Africa. So far it has been a difficult road and he might not be able to study further next year.
Odei was born in Johannesburg in 2000 after both his parents moved to South Africa from Ghana with his two older siblings. Both his parents were granted permanent residency in 2001.
His mother, Elizabeth, received a hand-written birth certificate for him, which she and her husband used to obtain a Ghanaian passport for him, after they tried to obtain an unabridged birth certificate but were given a document which did not have an ID number on it.
Odei’s two older siblings were granted citizenship along with his parents, but he was granted only a temporary residence permit.
“I’m now done with my exams. I’ve been provisionally accepted at four universities to study for a BCom.
“I cannot afford fees but have not been able to apply for (funding from) NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) because I’m not considered a South African even though this is the only home I’ve ever known. I just want to study – all my dreams could go down the drain.
“Back in 2008, my family and I moved to the North West to escape the xenophobic attacks and at Home Affairs there my mom was told I was not on the system and she should apply for temporary residency for me.”
Grassy Park High School, where Odei has been studying since 2014, is raising funds to give him the opportunity to study further next year.
Lawyers for Human Rights’ Robin Lenahan said Odei’s experiences were similar to those of thousands of children born in such circumstances.
She said if the Department of Home Affairs’ proposed amendment to the Births and Death Registration Act was enacted, it could see children born to foreign parents in South Africa being barred from receiving birth certificates and the situation would be much worse for them.
“Legally speaking, being born in a country like South Africa does not grant automatic citizenship. For children (such as Odei), their parents are given notices of birth certificates, which they can then use to apply for passports for their children from their country of birth and when the child turns 18, they can apply for citizenship in their own right,” she said.
“But what these new regulations propose is to do away with the issuing of that notice of birth, meaning that such children are unable to access birth certificates and that means those children will not be able to access basic services such as education because they do not have birth certificates.
“This proposed regulation violates all our international obligations about the rights of a child; it violates our own constitution.”
This proposed regulation violates all our international obligations about the rights of a child
Lawyers for Human Rights