---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Pascal Minani <pmin...@wrhi.ac.za> Date: 16 April 2012 14:59 Subject: Extension of social grants to refugees
Attached herewith please find the new regulations to the Social Assistance Act extending access to social grants to refugees. Congratulations to everyone both within and outside the sector for all the hard work over the years for reaching this point. Let us spread the good news to our clients and colleagues. The struggle continues...
--------------------- Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane (Ms) Executive Director Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) 5th Floor, Braamfontein Centre 23 Jorissen Street, Braamfontein Tel: +27 11 403 7562/0 Fax: +27 11 403 7559 Cell: +27 83 257 9015
LHR welcomes the extension of social grants to recognised refugees in South Africa. The Minister of the Department of Social Development (DSD) has finally promulgated amendments to the regulations of the Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004 which will take effect from the 1 April 2012. This came as a result of sustained advocacy from various rights groups, which culminated in LHR pursuing public interest litigation to give effect to elderly disabled refugees and refugee children rights to access social assistance. LHR and Refugee Social Services welcomes this progressive amendment from the Department.
*Background to the matter:*
On 6 June 2011 LHR brought a high court application in Durban, on behalf of an elderly disabled refugee women and Refugee Social Services, a non-profit organisation that provides social and integration assistance to refugees, based on Section 27(1)(a) of the SA Constitution which provides that everyone has the right to have access to “social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance.”
In addition, Section 27(b) of the refugees Act 1998 states that a refugee enjoys full legal protection, which includes the rights set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
As a result of previous litigation brought by LHR the Minister of Social Development amended regulations to the Social Assistance Act to grant refugees access to certain social grants, such as, disability grants and foster care grants but these amendments failed to benefit other vulnerable refugee groups (the elderly and children) by giving them access to an older persons grant, care-dependency grant and a child support grant.
In this case, the elderly women qualified for a disability grant but she was refused access to the grant because she reached the age of 60. All other disabled elderly refugees therefore were in the same predicament. Had she been a South African citizen her disability grant would have been automatically converted to an older persons grant. LHR considered this to be a constitutional violation of her rights and other elderly disabled refugees’ rights are facing the same predicament. We therefore intervened in her case to challenge this violation of her rights.
Yasmin Rajah, Director of Refugee Social Services, state, “Many refugees find themselves in a similar situation where they are unable to work as a consequence of their disability. They are also unable to secure employment due to their respective ages. Refugees are therefore left in a precarious situation where they are unable to maintain themselves or care for their families”. Similarly vulnerable refugees who cannot access care dependency grants and child support grants also face extreme hardships in South Africa.
According to LHR Attorney, Sherylle Dass “ The Minister had previously made several promises to amend the regulations to the Social Assistance Act but had not taken adequate or reasonable steps, until faced with litigation, to realise the rights of refugees”.
Despite the Minister choosing to oppose the application brought by LHR and it being set down for determination on the 16 April 2012, LHR is of the view that the Minister chose to rather effect the amendments before the Court makes a determination which may have forced her to do so. Dass continued, “We are confident that our legal challenge has led to the Department’s amendments of the Act. We are very pleased that the Department has chosen to take proactive steps to amend this legislation which has given recognition to the situation of refugees who also need to access social grants”.
LHR welcomes the decision by the Minister to finally promulgate legislation that realises the constitutional rights of refugees to access social grants.