Friday 19 June 2020


Asylum seekers and special permit holders may now apply for the Covid-19 social relief distress grant 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, and whose documents were valid at the start of the national state of disaster, may apply for the grant. Applicants will need to provide their documents.

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

The grant, 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,” the centre said. “In our papers we argued that that it was irrational and unreasonable to exclude such persons from being able to apply for the grant solely on the basis of their nationality or immigration status.” 

The centre pointed out that people on asylum seeker visas that have expired during the lockdown often face dismissal from work, no income and 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 SA ID number.

“At Scalabrini, we have seen a surge in requests for help. About 1,400 people called during the first eight weeks of lockdown 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.  GroundUp


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