| PRETORIA

Asylum seekers may apply for Covid-19 relief grant

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Pretoria High Court rules against the Minister of Social Development

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Photo of the court buiding

In the Pretoria High Court, Judge Selby Baqwa ruled that people who hold asylum-seeker and special permit status may apply for the Social Relief Distress Grant of R350 a month. Photo: Elna Schütz

Asylum seekers and special permit holders may now apply for the Covid-19 Social Relief Distress Grant (SRD) of R350 a month.

This is the outcome of litigation, initiated by the Scalabrini Centre, against the Minister of Social Development.

In the Pretoria High Court, Judge Selby Baqwa said people who hold asylum-seeker and special permit status in South Africa, whose documents were valid at the start of the National State of Disaster, may apply for the SRD grant. Applicants will need to provide their documents.

Like any other person, they are also subject to SASSA’s eligibility criteria: they cannot be receiving an income, any other form of grant, or any economic relief from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

The SRD, which was rolled out in May this year, is applicable for six months.

In a statement, the Scalabrini Centre said claims for May had already closed, so those affected by the court order would be entitled to claim from June onwards.

“The coronavirus knows no borders, and does not stop to ask for one’s nationality status. Citizens and foreign nationals in South Africa have been seriously impacted by the National State of Disaster and lockdown,” the centre said.

“We argued, in our papers, that it was irrational and unreasonable to exclude such persons from being able to apply for the grant solely on the bases of their nationality or immigration status.”

The centre pointed out that those on asylum-seeker visas that have expired under lockdown often face dismissal from work, no income, frozen bank accounts, and they are excluded from the majority of governmental financial relief packages, including government food parcels, because they do not have a 13-digit South African ID number.

“At Scalabrini, we have seen a large surge in requests for help. About 1,400 people called in the first eight weeks of lock-down requesting assistance with food, rental or electricity.

“Many of these are families with children who would usually have benefited from school feeding programmes,” it said.

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