Displaced children find refuge in South Africa

The worst victims of African wars are not those who die or have to be content with a missing limb – they are the children.

Some of these kids are breaking the myth that the drive to live better is the result of the adult industry. Some of them arrive on our shores unaccompanied.

According to statistics made available by the Department of Social Development (DSD), 11% of these children come to South Africa because of conflict or war in their country of origin.

Among other reasons: to seek a job (41%) or a better education (34%), following the death of a parent or guardian (3%), to join the family in South Africa (1%), on the promise of ‘better life in South Africa (1%), for other or unknown reasons (7%).

The issue of foreign children in South Africa is better detailed in the 2015 report on foreign children in care in the Western Cape Province by Marilize Ackermann of the Scalabrini Center in Cape Town.

The report notes that to have a meaningful existence in South Africa, identification documentation is vital. “A variety of rights flow from such a document; it establishes a nationality, an identity and an ability to function within a formal society. For a child, an identification document is crucial for their ability to access their most basic rights and plan for a meaningful future, ”Ackermann said in the report.

She added: “The growing interest of the South African government and civil society in developing solutions for migrant and refugee children is welcomed by the SCCT. This study aims to help formulate solutions by analyzing the situation of unaccompanied and separated foreign children in the context of refugee and immigration law, and by exploring the area where migration meets children’s rights.

Lumka Oliphant of DSD said: “The South African government through the Department of Social Development ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995. We are also signatories to the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. child and our Constitution obliges us to grant all children within our borders the same rights. All children within our borders, regardless of their nationality, have the right to all statutory services, including education, health, social assistance and all care and protection services. “

“We have developed guidelines on how to deal with unaccompanied minors which I will provide to you for your consideration.”

“Some unaccompanied minors are taken to our care centers for children and young people so that they can benefit from all the care and protection services. Others are repatriated to their country of origin for reintegration. “

The SCCT report is fascinating read.

It shows that overall, 42% of foreign children have spent more than three years in the South African education system. Regarding access to education, 89% of school-age children are enrolled in school.

The majority of children have spent a lot of time in South Africa, with 70% spending five years or more there. Children from Limpopo were more likely to have arrived in South Africa more recently. Those in the Western Cape had lived in the country for an average of nine years, and in Gauteng, the average was eight years. In Limpopo, however, the average time spent in South Africa was four years.

In an offline conversation, Oliphant had hinted, “If there was time, we would visit Musina Child and Youth Protection Center to hear their stories firsthand.”

The SCCT report, since updated in 2020, notes that in Limpopo, the majority of children made their own decision to migrate to South Africa (72% of children), while in Cape Town Westerners and Gauteng, only a minority of children have decided to migrate on their own. at 12% and 10% respectively. Overall, in 71% of all cases where the child’s migration history is known, it was not the child’s decision to migrate to South Africa.

Sixty percent of foreign children were male and 40% female. However, in Limpopo province 73% of the children were male. The majority of children are between the ages of 11 and 18, which represents 47% of all children in the provinces. The average age of these children was 16 years old. Children tended to be younger in Gauteng Province where 52% were under 16. The children of the Western Cape were generally older. At 53%, the majority were 16 or older.

These children were born in 15 countries, all located on the African continent. One in three children is born in Zimbabwe – and while children in the Western Cape were born in eleven different countries, in Limpopo children were born in one of three countries. The top four countries of birth, in all provinces, were Zimbabwe (33%), South Africa (23%) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Children born in South Africa refers to children born to non-South African parents.)

Oliphant says the DSD is attracting requests for relief from non-South Africans.

“They go through the same means test, so how many are approved is irrelevant as nationality is not a factor in the final determination.”


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