Our Child Refugee Rights Programme seeks advocate vigorously for laws, policies and programs to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee and internally displaced children, including those seeking asylum.
RCP recognises that interventions cannot be sustainable without the social and political will to support and sustain the realisation of the human rights of refugee women and children. Similarly, international protocols for the protection of vulnerable groups cannot be effective unless national legislation supports and implements these protocols. RCP cannot succeed in its efforts without effective cooperation with other organisations and government departments in countries of asylum and return. RCP’s Refugee Children’s Rights program emphasis social, political and legislative advocacy, with an initial focus on placing the rights of refugee children on the public agenda in their host countries.
The main objectives of the program are to:
- advocate for and promote the rights of refugee children
as well as other groups of disadvantaged children;
- facilitate refugee children’s access to key areas
of assistance, including asylum applications, temporary placement in foster
families, the appointment of state or non-state guardians, family searches and
reunification in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- empower refugee and migrant children and their
families by informing them about their rights, responsibilities and obligations
in their host countries;
- liaise awareness regarding the rights of refugee
children in accordance to UN Conventions, human rights treaties, and national
constitutions of the host countries; and
- strengthen the capacity of RCP to lead effective
advocacy campaigns on behalf of refugee children.
The program audits national legislation, reviews policies, and conducts research on the vulnerabilities and human rights violations experienced by refugee children in order to develop, advocate and lobby for child-protection legislation, policies, programs and community initiatives.
An important component of this program will be the establishment of a Refugee Children’s Legal Protection Centre, networked into existing legal advocacy organisations, which will improve the provision of legal advice and representation to children. Although this network will offer a direct service to children, its primary aim will be to apply pressure through the justice system to improve government provision to children and promote fact-based law reform.
Another key aspect of this program emphasises cooperation between RCP, key role players and the South African government to facilitate integration and protection of refugee children through facilitating access to education, healthcare and social welfare services.
In many cases, the law does provide protections to refugee children, but these protections are implemented poorly, if at all. RCP continues to advocate for effective implementation.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
RCP’s advocate for consistently lobby for making public schools more accessible for refugee children and asylum seeker children in South Africa, through the reduction of school fees and the elimination of other costs. RCP argues that user fees are a major obstacle to access to education for refugee children in South Africa, which some of the school principals use fees’ payment to deny education to refugee children.
Our advocacy also places special emphasis on refugee women and children’s right to access basic services, offered by government departments, such as rights to education, shelter, documentation, health and social grants and other basic needs.
Our advocacy has helped so many children, women and their families, to secure documentation, transfer of files (documentation), family reunification from the department of Home Affairs (Refugee Reception Offices) and other social services.
To ensure that refugee children have access to education, RCP in collaboration with school principals and the education department identify a number of schools which still have vacancies and place where learners can be placed. In many cases these learners have been denied enrolment because their parents have or will fail/ed to pay school fee deposits. While, according to school Act, no child should be denied education or treated unfairly because his/her parents could not afford to pay for school fees. But with RCP involvement with the support of the Department of Education, these learners are being placed in various schools and efforts are made to apply for them school exemption fees.
It is every child’s right to get an education, despite the social status of the parent, hence the government has a policy of exempting learners who can’t pay school fees from being forced out of school, due to lack of fees. Due to lack of knowledge, some parents are not aware that this policy exist, so they find themselves stranded with their kids at home, failing to pay school fees. RCP has always assisted, in helping these parents to apply for exemption and thus this year 28 pupils were assisted to get exemption.
When it comes access to education, in order for learners to be enrolled to school, they must have a proper document from the Department of Home Affairs, i.e., birth certificate or any refugee authentic document, in case of refugee children, who are the main RCP’s clients. However, it is very difficult for refugee children to get documents from the DHA; hence RCP has always intervened in cases where school children need the documents to be enrolled in schools.
Awareness Raising and Campaign: RCP conducts various school awareness campaigns on children’s right to education, and campaign against Xenophobia and other sort of discrimination. This programme also identifies refugee children struggling with academic performance and helpd them with after-school activities.