• Five unaccompanied minors, aged between 10 and 16, were repatriated to Zimbabwe by the Department of Social Development after being discovered without proper documentation in a van at the Beitbridge border gate.
  • DSD social workers assessed the children upon their discovery and coordinated with Zimbabwean authorities for their safe return, facilitated in the presence of the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
  • This incident underscores the importance of strengthened cross-border cooperation, as highlighted in the recent quarterly meeting between South African and Zimbabwean authorities, focusing on improving referral mechanisms, expediting family tracing and reunification, and providing comprehensive aftercare support to prevent future occurrences.

Today (28March), the Department of Social Development repatriated five unaccompanied minors to Zimbabwe. Discovered crammed inside a van without the necessary documents at the Beitbridge border gate, these children, aged between 10 and 16, were enroute to various destinations in Johannesburg.

Dedicated social workers from the DSD promptly assessed the children’s needs and swiftly liaised with Zimbabwean authorities to ensure their safe return home. The repatriation process unfolded under the watchful eye of the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM), culminating in the minors’ arrival at a child and youth care centre in Zimbabwe, where they will soon reunite with their families.

This episode underscores the gravity of the issue, prompting the Department of Social Development to convene a cross-border quarterly meeting with Zimbabwean counterparts, aimed at fortifying measures to guarantee the safe and lawful movement of children between the two nations. Key areas earmarked for enhancement include referral mechanisms, expedited family tracing and reunification, and comprehensive post-repatriation support to deter future instances of unauthorized border crossings.

Highlighting the significance of intergovernmental collaboration, South Africa maintains a cross-border Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zimbabwe and Lesotho, particularly centred on matters concerning children. Upholding its custodial role under the Children’s Act, the Department of Social Development remains steadfast in ensuring the welfare and protection of all children within South African borders.

This commitment aligns with international obligations set forth by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, compelling nations to safeguard undocumented and unaccompanied minors. With officials from the Department of Social Development actively present in Beitbridge and scheduled to oversee operations in Groblersbridge during the Easter period alongside the Border Management Authority, concerted efforts continue to uphold the sanctity of children’s rights and welfare across borders.

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