South Africa is home to over 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers, this is according to the UNHCR.
In this number, are children from neighbouring Zimbabwe who have come to Africa’s most developed nation in hope for a better future.
Many of the children travel unaccompanied making them vulnerable to robbery, slavery and sexual abuse.
One girl said, “He came to us and told us that he could help us cross the river. And you know that we didn’t know where we were going, so he had that much chance to take us away. So he came to us and told us that he could cross the river with us and we could pay him with our bodies.”
According to reports, about 2,000 illegal migrants are repatriated each week. Furthermore, 350-400 Zimbabwean children cross the border each day without passing official checkpoints.
“Because children are travelling on their own they face many risks while in transit and while in South Africa as well. A lot of them actually report that they have to cross the Limpopo River next to Musina to reach South Africa. This river is quite dangerous when flooded and it has crocodiles as well. Other risks that children face might include smugglers and along the way- they require services to cross borders and smugglers often take advantage of them, stealing their money, or even physically abusing them,” said Gilles Virgili, Project Manager at Save the Children South Africa.
In January, Save the Children unveiled a new campaign dubbed “Every Last Child.” The organisation in South Africa has said they will target Zimbabwean refugees.