On the Record: Sally Gandar and Popo Mfubu





On 19 June 2019, one day before World Refugee Day, the Western Cape High Court handed down judgment in a case brought by the University of Cape Town’s Refugee Rights Unit on behalf of the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, which sought to improve the lives of thousands of asylum-seeking families across South Africa. The order, which was made after successful negotiations with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA/The Department) means that wives, husbands, children and other dependents of asylum-seekers and refugees are now able to document themselves in South Africa as ‘dependents’ of the principle asylum applicant in a process commonly known as ‘family-joining’. This aspect of the Refugee Act – outlined at section 3(c) – means that refugee families can be documented together, ensuring their rights to family unity and dignity in South Africa.

The order confirms a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that had been agreed on by the applicants and DHA. The SOPs allow for refugees to apply to be documented (either through family joining or on their own grounds) upon provision of certain documents, where possible, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate or affidavit (in the absence of such documents) – regardless of where the marriage or birth took place. Family joining can now also be completed regardless of whether the dependents in question were included in the applicant’s original asylum application or not. The SOPs also provide for DNA testing as a measure of last resort to confirm the validity of parents’ claim over their child. These changes mean that asylum-seeking and refugee families can now fulfil their right to access documentation in South Africa. Kelley Moult spoke to Sally Gandar, the Head of Advocacy and Legal Advisor for the Scalabrini Centre, and Popo Mfubu, an attorney at the Refugee Rights Unit, about the ground-breaking case.


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On the record