PRETORIA, The number of unaccompanied and undocumented minors coming to South Africa from neighbouring Zimbabwe is rising, with 70 minors currently staying alone in South Africa’s northern Limpopo Province, which shares a border with Zimbabwe.
A delegation from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in Zimbabwe is attending a five-day meeting with the Department of Social Development of South Africa this week to look into the plight of unaccompanied and separated Zimbabwean minors living in South Africa.
The discussions, aimed at looking into progress and challenges within existing relations between the two countries, is being undertaken with a common interest of improving the living conditions of the unaccompanied and separated minors who end up in either South Africa or Zimbabwe.
The meeting includes visits to Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCC), which commenced on Monday in Musina, the northernmost town in Limpopo province. The delegation is also scheduled to visit centres in Thohoyandou, Makhado and Polokwane in Limpopo and in Benoni in Gauteng Province.
Unaccompanied minors are defined as children who have been separated from both parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so. Although South Africa cannot account for the numbers of unaccompanied and separated minors in the country, the Department of Social Development says there are currently 70 unaccompanied children in Limpopo alone.
South African Social Development Department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said Wednesday that South Africa, under it Children’s Act, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights the Child, is obligated to look after all children within its borders.
In November 2011, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Social Development to look into, among other matters, social security, welfare services, community development, and unaccompanied and separated minors.
Oliphant said significant progress has been made within the category of unaccompanied and separated minors, this includes the introduction of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which helps with the aspect of unaccompanied children. The SOPs have been shared to both South African and Zimbabwean governments and steering committees were formed on each side.
The South African steering committee is led by the Department of Social Development and consists of officials from the Departments of Justice, Health, Home Affairs, South African Police Service (SAPS), Department of Basic Education and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO).
The National Steering Committee also includes International agencies such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Save the Children, International Organization on Migration (IOM) and Lawyers for Human Rights.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK