PRETORIA, South Africa — In an attempted blow towards child trafficking in the nation, the South African government has created new laws and requirements concerning the movement of parents with their children in and out of the nation.
South Africa’s new border crossing regulations, originally announced late last May, are coming into effect on October first and state that for a parents to travel across the border with their children, either in or out of the nation, they must provide unabridged birth certificates to prove their relation.
Furthermore, if only one parent is attempting to travel across the border with their children, or child, they, in addition to the unabridged birth certificate, must provide either the written consult of the other parent or a court order that grants them legal guardian status of the child.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Ministry has stated that these new regulations are “for the safety of children including their protection from child trafficking, abduction and kidnapping.”
However, critics of these strict measures have expressed doubt over how well they will succeed in these objectives.
Migration experts have recently questioned the necessity of these regulations as they believe most of the child trafficking to be occurring in non state regulated points of entry. Chandre Gold, a senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) explains, “I think the biggest question is whether the trafficking of children through formal ports of entry has been identified as a big problem and I haven’t seen any data to suggest that.”
Part of the problem with understanding how much human trafficking is truly occurring across “formal points of entry” has to do with the confusion and overlap between human and migrant smuggling.
In 2009 many Zimbabweans flocked to South Africa, many seeking refuge from a languishing economy, some fleeing political persecution. The migration during that time from Zimbabwe to South Africa was estimated between 1-3 million, which while a statistic of rather wide margins indicates, that regardless of the actual number, there were incredibly high volumes of individuals crossing the border at this time.
To this day, many Zimbabweans reside both legally and illegally inside South Africa’s borders, having gained employment in this nation. Alongside this continued residency many have taken to sending taxis, or malaishas, back into Zimbabwe to pick up their children and bring them into South Africa.
However, while many of these children are crossing the border with these taxis in an effort to rejoin their parents, there have been reports that some of these children have instead been taken to forced labor and sex rings inside the South Africa.
This overlap between fairly innocuous migration and human trafficking designed to bring children into the sex and forced labor trades has limited the understanding of the volume of human trafficking occurring in the nation.
Further complicating the issue is the current lack of an established database that tracks trafficking cases. This subsequently prevents any understanding of the various figures concerning the extent of this trafficking in and out of South Africa to be known or available for researchers, although speculation about the amount of course still exists.
In 2010 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) declared that they were involved in the assistance of an average of 51 human trafficking cases per year between 2004 and 2010.
The U.S. Department of Sate Trafficking in Persons report 2014 while talking of child trafficking in South Africa states that, “South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”
The report further documents, however, that the majority of the child trafficking is based of recruiting children from the rural areas of South Africa itself. After recruited from the country regions of the nation, they are brought to various urban centers across the nation, including the major cities of Bloemfontein, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. It is here in the urban areas, after this geographic transition and dislocation from their, that the girls are forced into sex or domestic work, and the boys are forced into (mainly) begging. various criminal activities, and street vending. With the majority of child recruitment for sex and forced labor rings occurring inside the nation, where they are sent to other destinations still inside the nation, it seems that these new regulations concerned with the borders will not significantly affect the majority of South Africa’s child trafficking cases.
The director of the African Centre for Migration and Society, Loren Landau, recently stated that the child trafficking across borders occurring in the South Africa, is probably occurring through informal channels, in which the new regulations will have little power. He further said, “While many children move across South African borders and may of these may require protection of some kind… I sense we should be far more careful about dealing a heavy handed and securitized approach to these concerns.”
Critics of these new regulations have also expressed concerns over how they will affect single mothers. With 60 percent of children in South Africa growing up without a father, it seems that this law could seriously inhibit the ability of single mothers to travel out of the country with their children.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, Mayihlome Tshwete, has said in response to this that single mothers will be able to their local police stations to obtain affidavits if the father is unable to be reached or found. He further stated, ”We are mindful of adjustments that travelers will have to make, but we think they are the right security measure to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
There are also worries about how these stringent regulations will affect the tourist trade in this nation, with most critics agreeing that it will have a negative effect in the coming months after its implementation.
Thus, while South Africa has attempted to curb child trafficking by implementing these new regulations, it is feared that their rather heavy-handed approach may prove ineffective and cause more issues than it purports to solve.
– Albert Cavallaro
Sources: IRIN 1, IRIN 2, IRIN 3, State Documents, ACMS