SAHRC Equality Court ruling protecting rights of asylum seeker
The South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or Commission) welcomes a judgment handed down by the Equality Court at the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court in favour of an asylum seeker, who had approached the Commission for relief.
The complainant alleged that the Department of Labour refused to pay him his Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits because he is an asylum seeker. The respondent, the Department of Labour, claimed that the Department’s computer system does not allow them to process payment to asylum seekers as the computer system only accepts the 13 digit identity number of South Africans citizens.
On 4 July 2017, the Court ordered in favour of the complainant and awarded damages to the complainant, further ordering the Department of Labour to pay all UIF monies to the complainant and ordered the Department to correct its computer systems to allow the payment of UIF contributions to asylum seekers, who are lawfully entitled to such.
The Commission welcomes the matter as an important development for the rights of asylum seekers and other non-nationals, who despite their lawful status in South Africa, are being denied their UIF benefits. The matter raises the prospect that many other non-nationals, who may have faced this problem, have not sought relief because they are not aware of their labour rights, or may be too afraid to confront the system to assert their rights.
This is an important judgment in ensuring that the rights of marginalised people, non-nationals in particular, are protected and underscores the Constitution’s prohibtion on discrimination based on country of origin.