SA returns to Zimbabwe 5 minors found squashed in a van

SA returns to Zimbabwe 5 minors found squashed in a van

By Agencies and Staff Reporter

SOUTH African authorities last week repatriated to Zimbabwe some five unaccompanied minors found squashed in a van without the necessary documents.

The children between, aged between 10 and 16 years, were found at the Beitbridge border gate on Thursday headed for different places in Johannesburg.

“The children were handed over safely to Zimbabwe in the presence of the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and are at a child and youth care centre in Zimbabwe where they will be released to their parents,” said social development department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant.

“This incident happened after the Department of Social Development had its cross-border quarterly meeting with authorities from Zimbabwe to make sure that children moved safely and within the confines of the law between Zimbabwe and South Africa.”

More than a million Zimbabweans live in South Africa many of them illegally. Many moved over the last 15 years to escape economic turmoil in Zimbabwe.

The migrants often pay bus companies an extra fee to “smuggle” children over the border so they can spend time with them during school breaks and other holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

However, the South African Border Management Authority (BMA) has “intensified operations” to put a stop to the practice which was described as child “trafficking”.

In December last year, the BMA intercepted some 42 buses and found 443 children under the age of eight travelling from Zimbabwe without parents or legal guardians.

The children were then sent back to Zimbabwe.

Migrant support groups in South Africa downplayed the “child trafficking” claims by authorities.

Zimbabwe Migrants Support Network chairperson Chris Mapingure said “harsh economic conditions” led parents to use unlawful ways to bring their children to South Africa for the holidays.

“Calling it human trafficking is being sensational,” said Mapingure.