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Govt facing court action over foreign nationals' access to COVID-19 grant

The special COVID-19 grant is open to South African citizens, refugee status holders and permanent residents only.

FILE: Foreign nationals at the UN Refugee Agency in Cape Town on 14 October 2019. The foreign nationals say they fear being victims of xenophobic attacks and are sitting-in at the agency, hoping that they will be assisted to leave SA. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - An organisation representing refugees is taking government to court to give asylum seekers and special permit holders access a special COVID-19 grant.

The R350 grant aims to provide relief amid the pandemic.

It is open to South African citizens, refugee status holders and permanent residents only.

The Scalabrini Centre argues that the suffering experienced by asylum seekers and special permit holders is particularly severe because their visas may have expired under lockdown.

This may have led to dismissal, no income and frozen bank accounts.

The centre added that many asylum seekers were excluded from government food parcels as a 13-digit ID number was required to register.

Scalabrini's Sally Gandar said that before deciding to head to court, they wrote to the Social Development Department, SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the Presidency.

"We haven't had an appropriate response, so we've decided to approach the court. We are expected in court the day after Youth Day, on 17 June, in the North Gauteng High Court, which is in Pretoria."

Gandar said that it was irrational and unreasonable to exclude such persons from applying for the grant solely on the basis of their nationality or immigration status.