Report on unaccompanied minors who have travelled to South Africa

Save the Children

This research was undertaken for Save the Children UK South Africa Programme by the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in early 2007. The study aimed to gain insight into the migration experiences of children who cross international borders unaccompanied. The research took place in three main sites, namely, Johannesburg, the border with Zimbabwe (predominantly in Musina) and the border with Mozambique (predominantly in Malelane and Komatipoort). 

This report begins to address a significant dearth of information about children who cross international borders. The research aimed to provide information on the following: a) The routes of migration; b) Who children migrated with; c) The reasons for migration; d) How these children obtained basic necessities such as food, money, shelter, health care and safety; e) And their experiences of arrest, deportation and violence. 

The mean age of children migrating unaccompanied and illegally was 14 years but some children as young as seven are migrating alone.  Over three quarters of the children were from Mozambique and Zimbabwe with slightly more children interviewed on the Zimbabwe border that the Mozambican border. Children cited a combination of the death of their parents or caregivers, poverty in their home country and opportunities in South Africa as the reasons why they travelled to South Africa. About one quarter made their money by selling in the street, while a similar number made nothing at all. Some 14% made money by collecting plastic bottles from rubbish dumps.