Home Affairs gets tough on late birth registrations

Parliament – The Department of Home Affairs wants to make late birth registrations more difficult so that it can weed out chancers, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan said on Tuesday.

Speaking during the home affairs briefing in Parliament, she said: “We are going to make screening more difficult because most [of those] who are taking up late registrations are failed asylum seekers who have not left the country. Then [they] try their luck for South African citizenship through late registration of birth applications.”

Chohan said this facility was introduced to help people whose births had not been registered during apartheid. There had been cases where people as old as 80 had received an ID document for the first time. However, some people have seen the potential for abuse, she said.

“I myself have seen baptism certificates from churches that do not exist,” said Chohan.

This particular service was one of the most difficult the department offered because people presented themselves without any birth records and claimed their parents had died and that they were not able to obtain the death certificate.

“We have to go by what they say. We have to… try to verify the information they give… Then sometimes they bribe some South Africans to say, ‘Well I am this person’s aunt’.”

The government had done its fair share to help, including making it possible to register births at hospitals, bringing to 704 527 the number of births registered within 30 days of birth during the review period of 2014/15. This was above the target of 694 000 births registered within 30 days of birth.

But 389 438 were registered from day 31 to 14 years of age, meaning some South Africans were still leaving it late.

The department had taken mobile units to remote villages, but had found the uptake to be minimal.

Chohan said the potential abuse of home affairs services was also the reason the department had decided to close the Port Elizabeth refugee reception centre.

She said a syndicate that flies non-South Africans into Port Elizabeth had been uncovered.

“It was like a tourist bus. They were literally getting off the plane, throwing their passports away and going to the refugee reception centre [in Port Elizabeth],” she said. Many came from southeast Asian countries.

She said refugee reception centres should be placed at the country’s borders to prevent undocumented people from being arrested and deported while on their way to get to an office to apply for refugee or asylum papers.