Angolan who grew up in SA risks being sent back

Tariro Washinyira
Tariro Washinyira

Jesus Espirito Do Santos has lived in South Africa since he was three. He is at risk of being sent back to Angola where he was born. Yet he only speaks English and Afrikaans and can’t speak Portuguese.

In October 2009, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) proposed to end refugee status for Angolans who fled the civil war which ended in 2002. It recommended member states act in concert to achieve a uniform schedule for the implementation of the cessation of the refugee dispensation. A special dispensation was offered to Angolan nationals to regularize their stay in South Africa over a 14 week period which ended on 31 August 2013.

Jesus Espirito Do Santos, a 21 year-old matric graduate from Blouberg was born in Angola in 1992 during the civil war, to a Congolese mother, Suzan Ntoto and Angolan father. After a deterioration in personal circumstances, his mother decided to leave for Namibia in 1992. In 1995 they moved to South Africa and applied for refugee status in 1996. The refugee status allowed both Do Santos and his mother to work and study.

When Do Santos’ mother died of cancer in 2009, her then employer, a white South African, offered to adopt him. This procedure failed as Do Santos did not have a birth certificate at the time. Do Santos approached the Angolan Consulate later that year with all the necessary documents, including his father’s Angolan identification documents. During the process the consulate managed to locate other relatives but not his father. Do Santos only received his birth certificate and passport on 11 September 2013.

Do Santos said, “Because I got my birth certificate late when I had already turned 18, my mother’s employer could not adopt me. My mother worked for this family for nine years. The family had always treated me like their son. Being adopted by them was going to be the best solution to my problem. The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) call to end refugee status for Angolans who fled the civil war has the potential of destroying my life completely. The process is destructive to me, I cannot even speak my language [Portuguese]. I speak English and Afrikaans. I do not know anyone in Angola.”

Do Santos only got his passport after the Angolan dispensation programme ended, which means it is now more difficult for him to obtain a study permit because the requirements are stricter. Scalabrini, an NGO which works with refugees, has helped him to apply for a study permit at Home Affairs. He does not yet know if this will be successful.

Do Santos cannot apply for permanent residency although he has stayed in South Africa for 18 years because of his refugee status. Permanent residency is granted to people who have been using a temporary residency permit. It is also granted to immigrants who are in a position to make a meaningful contribution to broadening the economic base of South Africa.

Do Santos said he was accepted to study theology at the Bible Institute of South Africa. He is also interested in landscaping and if he cannot get a residency or study permit, he says he will try to start a landscaping business in Angola.

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TOPICS:  Immigration

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