Save the Children: Unaccompanied Migrant Children Need to be Better Protected in SA and the Region

Monday, November 5, 2007 - 15:00
Thursday, 8th November, 2007Save the Children UK announces the publication of a report which documents the plight of children who migrate to other countries in search of work and education: Children o
Thursday, 8th November, 2007Save the Children UK announces the publication of a report which documents the plight of children who migrate to other countries in search of work and education: Children o


Thursday, 8th November, 2007

Save the Children UK announces the publication of a report which documents the plight of children who migrate to other countries in search of work and education: Children on the move: protecting unaccompanied migrant children in South Africa and the region.

The report Children on the move: protecting unaccompanied migrant children in South Africa and the region was written in response to increasing concerns in several southern African countries over the situation of unaccompanied migrant children. The report gives recommendations to Government, donors and non-governmental organisations in order to ensure that migrant children are better protected and supported in South Africa and neighbouring countries. The report is based on the findings of four separate research studies undertaken in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Over 300 unaccompanied migrant children were interviewed on their experiences of migration.

Most of the children interviewed had crossed borders illegally from Zimbabwe or Mozambique and are now residing in South Africa, Mozambique or Swaziland with no documentation or legal status. Many children decided to migrate as a survival strategy in response to desperate poverty combined with the death of parents from HIV and Aids. Once in the host country the children look for work and other opportunities with a view to saving money to send back home.

Not only is the actual crossing fraught with danger which can include crossing crocodile-infested rivers, abuse from informal guides, border guards and others, but their marginalised lives as foreign, undocumented children has left them open to exploitation and abuse. Some of the girls have become sex workers whilst some of the boys are living on the streets, scavenging or collecting bottles for money. Others work for long hours on low wages. Sometimes they are not paid by their unscrupulous employers, who threaten to report them to the police.

Julia Zingu, Save the Children UK’s country director in South Africa said ‘Every country has an obligation to make sure that that migrant children are kept safe and given the support and assistance they need, whatever their nationality or status. In South Africa, the policies and legislation which protect children are so often not applied to migrant children because of the mistaken belief that these children do not have any rights’

The report calls on national governments, NGOs and regional bodies such as SADC to ensure that these children are not forgotten and that provision is made for them in legislation and policy frameworks. It also examines how xenophobia and a lack of understanding, capacity and commitment has led to migrant children missing out on the protection and services they are entitled to.

Save the Children UK will hold a press conference to launch the report on 7th November at the Pretoria Art Museum from 17.30-18.30. Copies of the report will be available.

For further information contact:

Lucy Hillier: Lhillier@savethechildren.org.za  or Julia Zingu: jzingu@savethechildren.org.za

Tel +27 (0) 12 430 7775 Fax +27(0) 12 430 7776

Notes for editors
This report builds on previous Save the Children UK research reports including the report: Children crossing borders, which was announced by the Save the Children UK press release ‘Children risk their lives to escape poverty in Zimbabwe’ 20th September, 2007. The press release and the report Children crossing borders can be accessed, here.
Date published: 
05/11/2007