Plan to Address the Plight of Unaccompanied and Undocumented Minors From Zimbabwe

The Department of Social Development in South Africa, along with other government departments as well as non-governmental organisations, render services in respect of unaccompanied and undocumented foreign children to ensure that the region's children who cross borders into South Africa are able to realise their rights to food, shelter, education, health and psychosocial support, and are not exploited or abused.
In terms of the Children's Act, unaccompanied and undocumented minors are to be considered children "in need of care and protection" and should be afforded all the necessary assistance.

The Department of Social Development, together with its provincial counterparts in Limpopo and Gauteng, are working with the Zimbabwean government on a process to ensure that these minors have access to care, protection and justice in South Africa.
Officials for the Department of Social Development and their Zimbabwean counterparts visited two shelters in Musina and Makhado last week. In Musina, they interacted with a children's committee made up of both Zimbabwean and South African children, which is making an effort to integrate Zimbabwean children into the local community of Musina.
In Makhado the delegation had an opportunity to interact with the principal of Masedi Combined School where almost 60 children from Zimbabwe attend school.
The school has managed to integrate these children not only in the school system but within the community. The report received by Social Development officials in the area indicated that between October 2010 and September this year, at least 595 children were assisted by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Makhado while the Department of Social Development's Musina Steering Committee Project assisted 106 children for the first six months of this year.
The Zimbabwean delegation was led by the Minister of Labour and Social Services, Ms Paurina Gwanyanya Mpariwa. They were on a fact finding mission to South Africa, which culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Zimbabwean Minister and the South African Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, on cooperation in the field of social development, particularly to address the plight of undocumented and unaccompanied children.
During the signing ceremony of the MOU between Zimbabwe and South Africa Minister Dlamini said: "South Africa is a signatory of various regional and international protocols on the protection of children of children. In terms of these protocols children in South Africa whether foreign or not should be accorded the same rights as all other children in our country. It is for that reason that we want to formalise the working arrangements between our two countries to ensure the best interest of undocumented and unaccompanied minors"
The Ministers agreed that there is a need for the active participation of both governments through their departments to deal with issues affecting unaccompanied minors. It was noted that there has been a major shift in national policy and assistance towards Zimbabwean children, who should now be deported to Zimbabwe, if they voluntarily choose to go back.
A South African/ Zimbabwe Cross Border Sub-Committee has been established and has adopted standard operating procedures aimed at formalising processes of offering assistance to unaccompanied and unaccompanied children.
As part of their programme, the Ministers also shared experiences on pension schemes. In this regard, South Africa provided an overview of its social security reform agenda.
They also agreed that there is a need to share experiences on services to older persons, home and community based care in respect of HIV and AIDS, Non-Governmental Organisation funding, early childhood development, child protection as well as programs for people with disabilities.
The Ministers also agreed that the Zimbabwean will coordinate Open Days as a platform to update children and adults about the situation at home and the services that are available for them. They will hold another Ministerial Bilateral Meeting in Zimbabwe next year.(


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