Statelessness and COVID-19 in South Africa




ubuntu, statelessness, good practices, COVID-19, access, vaccinations, socio economic rights, socio economic services


The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the plight of the stateless in South Africa. Statelessness is a pandemic on its own and has been regarded as ‘a forgotten human rights crisis.’ The consequence of statelessness is the inability to access internationally and democratically recognised human rights standards and protections due to a stateless person not having a nationality. The declaration of the State of Disaster in South Africa in March 2020 and the ensuing stages of lockdowns, testing and access to vaccinations have been put into place to curb the infection rate of COVID-19. Such interventions are available to nationals, non-nationals, refugees and asylum seekers, but those who are stateless encounter challenges in accessing socio-economic rights granted by the government. The inability of the stateless to access basic services such as access to health facilities, food, shelter, sanitation, vaccinations and protection have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite international and regional laws guaranteeing the protection of those who are stateless and the South African constitutional dispensation, socio-economic hardships affect the stateless who do not have a nationality. Against this background, this article outlines what statelessness is, it examines good practices in countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Kenya and Uganda in relation to statelessness and access to COVID-19 vaccinations. It suggests that in addition to good practices, ubuntu must be the basic value that underpins the transformation of nationality laws. Even though some advances have been made to provide a separate registration platform for the stateless to access vaccinations, much work needs to be done still before a permanent solution is found.


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How to Cite

Neluvhalani, Vhonani Sarah-Jane. 2022. “Statelessness and COVID-19 in South Africa”. Southern African Public Law 37 (1):28 pages.
Received 2021-10-20
Accepted 2022-04-22
Published 2022-07-05