Department of Home Affairs must account for what happened at Beitbridge border

The DA calls on the Department of Home Affairs to provide a detailed account of the events that transpired at the Beitbridge border. The DA expresses concern regarding the conflicting reports surrounding the interception of children purportedly ‘trafficked’ from Zimbabwe into South Africa.

Earlier this week, the Commissioner of the Border Management Authority (BMA) announced that 42 buses, transporting 443 unaccompanied children from Zimbabwe to South Africa, were intercepted. The Minister of Home Affairs asserted that these children were being trafficked and were subsequently handed over to the Zimbabwean authorities at the border.

However, the Zimbabwean authorities have contradicted these statements. According to them, only 124 children were handed over to the Department of Immigration for attempting to cross without the necessary travel documentation. Out of these, 101 were successfully reunited with their families, leaving 23 children at the Beitbridge Reception Centre.

The contradictory versions of events raise troubling questions, particularly regarding the fate of the remaining 319 children, if the claims of South African authorities are accurate. Moreover, the Commissioner’s admission that many BMA officials lack proper training raises serious concerns, especially in the context of the best interest of the child. Notably, the statements from the Department of Home Affairs omitted any mention of the Department of Social Development (DSD).

In accordance with the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act, read with the Children’s Act, the DSD must be notified when officials suspect that a foreign child has been trafficked. The absence of such notification is alarming.

The DA has decided to submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Department of Home Affairs to seek clarification on these issues and determine whether the best interest of the child was prioritised during this operation. The PAIA application will encompass the following information:

1. Protocols in place for unaccompanied minors and child trafficking.
2. Whether BMA officials have received adequate training in dealing with unaccompanied children and trafficking at the border.
3. The rationale behind handing over the children to Zimbabwean authorities.
4. The precise number of children intercepted.
5. Whether the DSD was notified about the situation concerning the children.

The ANC’s lack of compassion and protection of these children once again proves their utter disregard for the most vulnerable.

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