Most child advocacy groups back new immigration rules - Malusi Gigaba

Minister says social cost of human trafficking will have a greater burden on our economy than administrative checks and balances

Minister Malusi Gigaba on meeting on immigration regulations with Child Advocacy Groups

2 July 2015

Today we met with child advocacy groups to broaden consultation and engagement with stakeholders on the recent immigration law amendments and regulations.

The meeting concentrated on requirements for travelling with children through South Africa’s ports of entry, including the unabridged birth certificate and parental consent. Molo Songololo, ChildlineSA, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision were among those represented.

The majority of stakeholders welcomed the requirements specific to travelling with children, saying these were in the best interest of the child and would go a long way in rolling-back the frontiers of child abduction and human trafficking.

Good enforcement, with support of stakeholders, will promote implementation of South Africa’s Children’s Act (of 2005). In the long run, it will help in ensuring South Africa meets its obligations concerning the wellbeing of children in terms of international instruments binding on the Republic.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on trafficking in persons 2014 says child trafficking, of both boys and girls, is commonly reported in Sub-Saharan Africa, whereas almost all victims detected in North Africa and the Middle East are adults.

Sub-Saharan Africa reports the highest share of child trafficking in the world, and girls and boys are more or less equally detected. From Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and South Africa reported high shares of female involvement, nearly 50 per cent, during the reporting period.

South Africa is not detached from global and continental occurrences.

SA’s Children’s Act of 2005 gives effect to the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The Children’s Act sets out principles relating to care and protection of children and prohibits child abduction and other offences relating to children.

On travelling with children the act states that a parent or other person who acts as guardian of the child must consent to the child’s departure or removal from the Republic and to the child’s application for a passport. South Africa’s policy approach cannot merely be responsive but should rather seek to be proactive, and, in this regard, this also means taking preventative measures.

Checks and balances that reduce the probability of South Africa becoming a trafficking haven will cost South Africa less than attempting to cure a prevalent trafficking social ill.

The social cost of human trafficking will have a greater burden on our economy than administrative checks and balances.

There was agreement in the meeting with child advocacy groups on the paramount importance of collaboration in this respect. I have directed the Home Affairs Director-General and other departmental officials to intensify stakeholder engagement relating to the implementation of legislative amendments and regulations. It should be clear that this is not about a review of regulations, but working together to ensure smooth implementation and to mitigate against any potential unintended consequences.

It is in working together, as government, non-governmental organisations, business, labour, and broader society, that we can strengthen our efforts in this area, ensuring smooth implementation in the interest of children, communities, SA’s economic goals and national security.

I have the expectation that these stakeholder engagements will look at innovative methods to minimise the administrative inconveniences. The fundamentals of minimising the vulnerability of children will remain unmovable principles but the modalities of administration can be modified and simplified for the convenience of travellers.

I expect these stakeholders’ engagements to lead to that. The Immigration Amendment Acts, 2007 and 2011 and the Immigration Regulations, 2014 came into operation on 26 May 2014, to improve management of immigration in a manner that balances South Africa’s openness to travellers with development and security imperatives.

The requirements specific to travelling with children through SA’s ports of entry took effect on 1 June 2015, to promote the principle that all children must have the consent of parents when travelling into or out of the Republic.

Protecting children’s rights, as the Children’s Act (2005) affirms, leads to corresponding improvement in lives of other sections of the community because it is neither desirable nor possible to protect children’s rights in isolation from their families and communities.

Statement issued by Mayihlome Tshwete, Department of Home Affairs, July 2 2015