PRESS RELEASE: LHR and CCL win bid to allow separated refugee children into public school

The North Gauteng High Court ordered today that eight separated minors living in South Africa be allowed to register for and attend public school. The issue arose after public schools were threatened with fines for allowing these children into school.

Separated children have been refused entry into South African public schools over of a lack of documentation and status because the Department of Home Affairs does not recognise them as dependents of their caregivers.
Separated children are defined as those separated from both parents, or from their previous legal caregiver, but not necessarily from other relatives. These include children accompanied by other adult family members. These children often find themselves in a legal limbo because they are not necessarily children “in need of care and protection” and therefore do not fall within the childcare system. However, Home Affairs refuses to register such children as asylum-seekers without a court order for guardianship.  They are left undocumented and unable to attend school or access other services such as medical care. 
After the Minister of Education and the Gauteng MEC for Education decided not to oppose the application, the court ordered that the Department of Education allow these minors to register for and attend public school.
LHR attorney Neo Chokoe said, “This case is ground-breaking in that is has opened doors for many separated children who are unable to study because they are undocumented. The judgment is significant in that from now on, applicants will be allowed to register in schools without permits.”
The court also ruled that the Minister of Education review the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools to comply with the Constitution by making provision for child asylum-seekers and refugees within the next six months and to publish it in the Government Gazette.
According to international law, unaccompanied and separated minors should be registered with appropriate school authorities as soon as possible, however, this is currently not being adhered to in South Africa. The failure to provide them with access is in conflict with domestic law which provides that all school-age children have the right to attend school. 
LHR and CCL will continue to seek relief against the Department of Home Affairs to recognise separated children as dependents of their caregivers. This part of the matter was postponed as the Department of Home Affairs had not filed papers.
Chokoe added, “We are glad the children will now be able to attend school as some have missed more than a year already. This not the end of the matter because the children need to be recognised as dependents of their caregivers so that they can get the necessary papers.”