Vulnerable visitors from Zimbabwe - Study


A preliminary study outlining the risks and vulnerabilities facing Zimbabwean children who have crossed illegally into Mozambique

1.0 Introduction

The movement of people across political boundaries has generated considerable debate in Southern Africa. Save the Children UK in Mozambique has determined the issue of cross border migration of children as a priority area for research and possible programming. In late 2005, SC UK conducted a preliminary study with a view to gaining a better understanding of the general situation and specific risks and vulnerabilities facing Zimbabwean children living in Manica Province in central Mozambique. While further research is required, SC UK spoke with a limited number of provincial and district government officials, civil society organisations and people in the private sector to gain some insight into this little known phenomena. Based on these interviews, particularly of NGOs operating in the area, SC UK is concerned about Zimbabwean children experiencing neglect, abuse and exploitation in Mozambique due to a number of factors, and that government, civil society and community dialogue and interventions are needed to improve their situation. The following are some key points which arose out of the preliminary study.

1.1 Summary of Key Points

Due to the illegality of cross border movement of many Zimbabweans into Mozambique, the porous nature of the border between the two countries, the difficulty in identifying Zimbabwean children, and the fact that many stay for short periods before returning home, the number of Zimbabwean children currently in Mozambique is difficult to establish. In addition, the national and Manica provincial governments do not consider the illegal entry and status of Zimbabweans to be a major issue for concern which partly explains why so little data is available.

While it is clear that the numbers of Zimbabweans, both adults and children, crossing into Mozambique are significantly less than the illegal movement of Zimbabwean children into South Africa and Botswana, there are indications that this issue merits further investigation. One district government official claimed a movement of 10-15 children per day crossing the border illegally, while several civil society organisations in Manica are concerned about an increase in Zimbabwean girls entering into prostitution.

Economic insecurity, lack of employment opportunities, political frustration, natural disasters such as drought and prolonged sickness and death of family members, sometimes from AIDS, are some of the factors prompting Zimbabwean children to enter into Mozambique.

The difficulties that Zimbabwean children face in Mozambique due to their illegal status include: labour exploitation, lack of protection due to inadequate documentation, limited access to schools and other social welfare institutions, coercion of girls into the sex industry as the only means of economic survival, discrimination, and harassment by the authorities on both sides of the border.

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