BEITBRIDGE: South Africa engages Zimbabwe over unaccompanied children

BEITBRIDGE: South Africa engages Zimbabwe over unaccompanied children

By Agencies  

SOUTH Africa has engaged Zimbabwe in a bid to ensure the protection of children as they move across the border between the two countries over the Easter long weekend.

Department of Social Development and the Border Management Authority (BMA) this week held its cross-border quarterly meeting with counterparts from Zimbabwe to discuss the protection and care of children.

The meeting, held on Tuesday was attended by officials from the National Department of Social Development, Musina and Vhembe District Offices, the Limpopo provincial office as well as the Red Cross and Save the Children.

“Officials from the Department of Social Development will be on-site in Beitbridge and Groblersbridge over Easter to make sure that the processing of children is in accordance with the law,” the department said.

The department said it is obligated to make sure that all children within its borders get the necessary care and protection.

“South Africa is obligated through the Children’s Act, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNRC), and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child [that] any child found to be undocumented and/or unaccompanied must receive the necessary care and protection. This includes a thorough assessment before they can be safely integrated with families in their home countries,” the department said.

During the meeting on Tuesday, officials agreed on the mechanisms to be implemented to strengthen the safety of children. These include referral mechanisms, fast tracking of family tracing and re-unification, and after care and support post repatriation to the families to avoid recurrence of children crossing over again to South Africa.

The department said it has a cross-border Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zimbabwe and Lesotho on children. The MOU is about cooperation in relation to the provision of social services between the two countries.

“The department continues to engage the respective country authorities through the MoU to intensify their efforts during every holiday season to make sure all children are documented and accompanied before entry into South Africa,” the department said.

It further works with international organisations like Save the Children and UNICEF to make sure that the rights of children on the move are protected.

The department said it would also send officials who work in the Directorate of Trafficking in Person and Victim Empowerment Programme to the borders to monitor and prevent any person from being trafficked.

“The role of the Department of Social Development is the protection, care, and support of victims of trafficking. Trafficking victims are accommodated soon after identification and receive psychosocial support with focus on dealing with the trauma they experienced during exploitation by traffickers,” the department said.