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'Family joining': What our new court ruling means for refugees' families

The Western Cape High Court has handed down a ruling that will allow family members of asylum seekers to document themselves as dependents.

The Western Cape High Court. Picture: judiciary.org.za.

CAPE TOWN – A new court order seeks to cut the red tape for refugee families seeking asylum.

The Western Cape High Court on Monday handed down a ruling that will allow family members of asylum seekers to document themselves as dependents. This is likely to take place in process called “family joining”.

The Refugee Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town took the matter to court in 2016. The new court order means refugee families can be documented together, ensuring their rights to family unity and dignity in South Africa.

Popo Mfubu of the Refugee Rights Unit said many applicants experienced barriers when they tried to join their families in South Africa.

“This is an opportunity to document spouses, dependents and children in a way that is clear and consistent. There is a written policy that allows for them to be joined,” he said.

Wives, husbands, children and other dependents of asylum applicants and refugees were often left with no way to document themselves. Applicants will have to provide certain documents where possible, such as a marriage or birth certificates.

If there are serious doubts about the validity of a parent's claim over a child, Home Affairs can request a DNA test.