RMRP: Statelessness Project - accessing citizenship and nationality

In March 2011, LHR launched a new project focusing on statelessness as part of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme.Due to a conflict of citizenship laws between various African nations, and intentionally discriminatory laws and practice, many Africans find themselves de jure stateless – they do not qualify for citizenship under any nation’s legal system.

» find out more about this programme »


The Committee considered the second periodic report of South Africa (CRC/C/ZAF/2) at its 2141st and 2142nd meetings (see CRC/C/SR.2141 and 2142), held on 19 September 2016, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 2160th meeting (see CRC/C/SR.2160), held on 30 September 2016.

The Committee welcomes the submission of the second periodic report of the State party and the written replies to the list of issues (CRC/C/ZAF/Q/2/Add.1), which allowed for a better understanding of the situation of children’s rights in the State party. The Committee expresses appreciation for the constructive dialogue held with the high-level and multisectoral delegation of the State party. 

The Committee also welcomes the adoption of a number of new legislative acts and institutional and policy measures related to children’s rights since its last review, including the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005) and the Child Justice Act (Act No. 75 of 2008), which are largely in line with the Convention.

The Committee further welcomes the progressive application by the judiciary, in the State party’s jurisprudence, of the rights and principles stipulated in the Convention, the overall reduction of infant and child mortality and of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the increase in birth registration and the efforts made to develop a strong legal and policy framework to combat violence.

The Committee recommends that the State party take all measures necessary to address its previous recommendations of 2000 (CRC/C/15/Add.122) that have not been implemented or have not been sufficiently implemented, in particular those related to legislation (para. 10), data collection (para. 14), budgetary allocations (para. 15), domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse (para. 27), corporal punishment (para. 28), primary health care (para. 29), adolescent health (para. 31), education (para. 34) and juvenile justice (para. 42).

 Download the full report:

Childhood statelessness in South Africa is a generally unaddressed, largely preventable, but growing phenomenon. This short publication presents the experiences of nine children who have been let down by the system, denied their right to acquire a nationality and rendered stateless in South Africa. The many issues that come to rise through their stories and the proposed solutions were brought to the attention of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) in a joint submission to the Committee in 2015.1 South Africa’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are such that all children in the country who would otherwise be stateless, should have the right to acquire a nationality: no child should be left stateless (Article 7 of the Convention). This obligation is reiterated in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition Article 28 of the South African Constitution protects the right of every child to a name and a nationality from birth and more broadly protects a common citizenship. 

Despite its international and domestic obligations, South Africa’s legislative framework collectively creates and perpetuates childhood statelessness. Discrimination in the South African Citizenship Act, 1995 can be seen in the stories illustrated in this publication. Positive provisions are constrained by restrictive birth registration requirements of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA), 1992, which can lead to statelessness. The Immigration Act, 2004 also fails stateless unaccompanied migrant children who cannot be returned to their country of origin by not providing them with a legal immigration status.

South Africa is regrettably not a signatory to the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. 

Download the report here: http://www.lhr.org.za/sites/lhr.org.za/files/lhr_stateless_booklet_5.pdf


The report “Queue Here for Corruption: Measuring Irregularities in South Africa’s Asylum System” comes as SA grapples with xenophobic violence, incoherent changes to the country’s immigration policies and dubious attempts by  various spheres of government to address these issues.

The urgent high court application to interdict the government from continuing with Operation Fiela-Reclaim raids unless legislative provisions are adhered to has been removed from the urgent roll in the high court in Pretoria.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) brought the challenge in light of grave concerns around the legality of Operation Fiela-Reclaim - a joint operation conducted by the police, army and department of home affairs.  Specifically, LHR views the decision to implement raids in the early hours of the morning, in “cordoned off” areas with the army and Department of Home Affairs (and without the warrants required by legislation) as blatantly unlawful. The raids also appear to target non-nationals despite claims to the contrary.

Attached are the court documents for the case from all parties:


The spate of looting of foreign national's shops in Isipingo: Nomagugu Mlawe
The spate of looting of foreign national's shops in Isipingo south of Durban has again thrown...
LHR's Liesl Muller discusses statelessness on KykNet
Liesl Muller - head of LHR's Statelessness Project - discusses the issues around statelessness...
The role of migrants in township economy
Recent incidents of looting against 'foreign-owned' shops in Soweto, Kagiso and other...
Lootings in Soweto has thrown open the issue of xenophobia
The spate of looting of foreign nationals' shops in parts of Soweto has thrown open the issue...