A landmark court order has eliminated administrative barriers for asylum-seeking and refugee families whose dependents may now apply to be documented either through family-joining or on their own terms, says a Cape Times report.

The order, made in the Western Cape High Court, follows negotiations between the Department of Home Affairs and civil society.

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town said wives, husbands, children and other dependents of asylum-seekers and refugees had been able to document themselves in SA in a process known as ‘family-joining’. This aspect of the Refugee Act – outlined at section 3(c) – means that refugee families can be documented together, ensuring their rights to family unity and dignity.

However, many applicants had experienced barriers when trying to join family members in this way, the centre said. As refugees cannot return to their country because of conflict or persecution, maintaining a family unit that is documented together is an important part of building stability and ensuring proper refugee protection in SA.

An order handed down this week confirmed a set of standard operating procedures which have been agreed on between the department and the applicants.

The order means dependents are now able to apply to be documented either through family-joining or on their own grounds, on provision of certain documents where possible, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate – regardless of where the marriage or birth took place.

Affidavits are to be submitted in the absence of documents.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)