A South African Supreme Court of Appeal has granted full citizenship rights to a 6-year-old girl born to Cuban parents. The girl, who was born in 2008 to parents who were both migrants, had been essentially left “stateless” as she could neither claim to be a citizen of Cuba nor South Africa.
The BBC reports that a high court sitting in the North Guateng district of Pretoria gave the landmark ruling last week, when it ordered the South African authorities and the Department of Home Affairs to recognize the girl as a citizen of South Africa.
Cuban law states that children born outside of Cuba, even to Cuban parents, would not be considered as Cuban citizens when the parents have been absent from Cuba for more than 11 months.
The girl’s parents had been outside of Cuba for more than 8 years, so it was obvious she stood no chance of being recognized as a citizen from the socialist Caribbean country.
In South Africa, the government went to court challenging the ruling of the lower court that granted the girl citizenship, believing it would lead to an explosion in the number of children of migrant families eligible and applying for South African citizenship.
In their plea, lawyers from South African-based non-profit organization Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which represented the family of the girl in court, argued that South African law offers citizenship to children born in South Africa when their births are registered and they do not have claims of citizenship or nationality in any other country.
Liesl Muller, a lawyer with the LHR, described the court ruling as a victory for the rule of law, saying it would bring South Africa in line with international best practices regarding the issue of citizenship.
“We obtained an order declaring the child a South African citizen and directing the Home Affairs minister to issue her with a South African ID number and birth certificate.
“The case had tried to explore the practical meaning of section 28(1) (a) of the constitution, which stated every child had the right to a name and nationality from birth. The case also wanted clarity on section 2(2) of the Citizenship Act, which provides South African citizenship to those born in the territory and who are stateless,” Muller said.
Parents of the girl say her previous lack of a proper citizenship had limited her basic human rights and restricted her chances of international travel by denying her a chance to apply for passport documentation.
However, her newly conferred citizenship status entitles her to state-provided education, health care, and other welfare services that she was previously denied.
The Supreme Court of Appeal judgement also gave the government 18 months to get its house in order and put in place a mechanism for processing similar claims.