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Zimbabwe debunks Motsoaledi's 443 intercepted minors in a day fiction

by Staff reporter
05 Dec 2023 at 07:24hrs | Views
THE Department of Immigration, working closely with the police, has tightened screws to curb irregular migration between South Africa and Zimbabwe following an increase in travellers using the Beitbridge Border Post daily.

This comes after police intercepted 125 minors who were being improperly transported to South Africa in the past week amid calls for parents and guardians to comply with immigration laws and avoid putting minors at risk.

It has become common for Zimbabweans based in South Africa to be visited by children living in the country during school holidays, some of whom would have travelled illegally.

On Sunday, South African authorities claimed to have intercepted 443 children from 42 buses who were being "trafficked" to the neighbouring country through the Beitbridge Border Post. However, Zimbabwean officials dismissed the reports saying they did not receive the said children.

Zimbabwe's Ambassador to South Africa, Ambassador David Hamadziripi, said authorities were only aware of 125 children who were intercepted in the past week, not the 443 as reported in the South African media.

"That is the information I received, that 125 were intercepted in the past week. However, South Africa's Home Affairs Minister (Aaron) Motsoaledi in his statement said 443 children were intercepted holding Zimbabwean passports and were handed over to Zimbabwean authorities," he said.

"So, we are not aware of the 443 children who were handed to Zimbabwean officials."

Amb Hamadziripi urged parents and guardians to follow regulations when transporting children across borders saying minors travelling without guardians and parents need to have affidavits authorising their travel.

"The message is always the same from us here at the embassy, that Zimbabwe nationals here in South Africa must respect the laws of this country. So clearly, when it comes to the movement of their children who are in Zimbabwe they should travel with proper documentation," said Amb Hamadziripi.

"By that, we mean a passport and a letter if that child is not accompanied by an adult, then at least a letter from the parent or guardian here in South Africa, authorising that the child be brought to South Africa by whoever they would have designated to bring the child to South Africa. We need to respect those laws and regulations that are in place."

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said law enforcement agents, immigration officials, and their South African counterparts were investigating the illegal transportation of children to the neighbouring country.

"We have 125 children who were intercepted on the Zimbabwean side while being transported to South Africa and this happened from November 29. So, it is a process which we are working together with the Immigration authorities and the South African counterparts," he said.

"Investigations are still ongoing and we just urge the public and the media to be patient."

Asst Comm Nyathi urged the public to follow laid down procedures when it comes to the transportation of minor children.

"They need to abide by the laws whether they are from the South African side or the Zimbabwean side they need to ensure that they conduct their activities according to the country's laws.

In a video message shared on social media, Zimbabwe Community in South Africa chairperson Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena said the blocking of children could emanate from parents who do not understand South Africa's immigration laws.

He said some of the children had passports but were accompanied by their guardians without the requisite supporting documents.

He said after the children were denied entry, some parents notified them their children were coming to them as opposed to being trafficked.

"We have been contacted by some parents and they are saying some of the children were with their guardians or grandparents," said Mr Mabhena.

"The problem arose at the border where border officials said they are not the biological parents of the children. In other words, if a guardian is travelling with a child, what we understand is that there must be an affidavit from the parents that the guardian must travel with the child."

Meanwhile, the Regional Compliance and Enforcement Unit is hard on the ground rounding up illegal migrants crossing to either side of the border. The regional Immigration officer in charge of Southern Region (Beitbridge) Mr Joshua Chibundu said they have been noting an increase in human traffic between 20 November and 3 December.

He said they were also not taking lightly to issues of human trafficking, especially where children are concerned.

Mr Chibundu said in the last two weeks they received 114 unaccompanied children who had been smuggled into South Africa through illegal entry points along the Limpopo River. These are now being managed by the Department of Social Services, which is tracing their relatives pending reunification.

A total of 120 buses, including those in transit to Malawi and Zambia, use the border post daily.

"We have noted an increase in travellers through the border between 20 November and 2 December, where volumes have increased by 30 351 on entry and 24 979 on exit," said Mr Chibundu.

"Statistics for 20 to 26 November were 43 515 on entry and 44 221 on exit compared to 27 November to 3 December movement increased to 73 866 on entry and 69 200 on exit.

"At the same time, we are not taking chances to those who would want to play hide and seek with the law. Our compliance team is hard on the ground."

It is understood that the ongoing immigration compliance operation, which is also supported by the ZRP, is meant to curtail criminal activities, among them border jumping, touting, the use of fake immigration stamps, and fake travel documents that are synonymous with a surge in human traffic.

"As a department, we are not relenting on our quest to maintain the safety and security of travellers and ensure we have a flawless flow of traffic this festive season," said Mr Chibundu.

Source - the herald