Wednesday, April 30, 2008
stories of children who travel alone in Southern Africa tell of
beatings at the hands of the authorities, of their possessions being
taken, of forced labour, and their vulnerability to sexual abuse. But a
new publication by Save the Children (SC) also tells of their bravery
and resilience, and they even offer advice to other young migrants.
In "Our Broken Dreams: Child Migration in Southern Africa", released by SC UK, and SC Norway in Mozambique, the children highlight the dangers they face when crossing borders alone.
interviewed migrant children in four countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe,
Mozambique and Swaziland. "Many were very clear about how they should
be helped by governments in the region, and how they should be treated
with respect," Christopher Bjornestad, a Child Migration Specialist at
SC in Mozambique, told IRIN.
"A number of children called for
the authorities to stop abusing, imprisoning and repatriating them to
their home countries, while others said they should be entitled to free
education in the host countries."
One child who had made his
way to South Africa from Zimbabwe, said: "We jumped over the first
fence and the second one, which is electrified and has razor wire and
cement posts. Then we will be moving though the forest, so you might be
attacked by lions and other wild animals. We met two soldiers and they
shot more than six bullets into the sky." He told the interviewers he
had come to look for work.
"These are the voices of real
children, and they are saying clearly that we must do more to protect
them. Unaccompanied child migrants are extremely vulnerable to abuse
and exploitation, but this is an issue which has slipped through the
cracks of public concern in southern Africa and around the world," said
Chris McIvor, Country Director of SC UK in Mozambique.
numbers are difficult to estimate because of the 'illegality' of much
of the cross-border movement of children, indications are that this
affects tens of thousands of children every year."
He said the
difficulty of measuring the exact numbers of migrant children in the
region should not be a reason for minimising the scale of the problem
and the nature of the difficulties these children faced.
are sufficient indicators to point to a phenomenon that is widespread
and serious. For example, figures previously released by the South
African authorities for undocumented Zimbabwean migrants reveal that of
the two thousand people being repatriated each week, up to 20 percent
were unaccompanied children," McIvor told IRIN.
remember that these figures only account for those who are caught and
repatriated - the majority of children go undetected," said McIvor, who
pointed out that the plight of migrant children in Southern Africa was
still "invisible" because governments in the region were unwilling to
accept the scale and nature of the problem.
reluctance to acknowledge the political and economic failures that push
children out of one country into another, and an unwillingness to
recognise the ill-treatment that children face in the locations where
they have ended up, have created a culture of silence around this
issue," he commented.
The children who told their stories in
the book called for better protection in host countries, teaching
children and communities about the dangers of travelling to and living
in foreign countries, and for a halt to the abuse, imprisonment and
forced repatriation often inflicted on them.
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org