South Africa’s stateless children: ‘My mum disappeared’

Published: 23/Jan/2020
Source: Al Jazeera

In a shelter near the border, girls dream of futures that may be out of reach if they cannot secure documents

by Jamaine Krige & Yeshiel Panchia

Precious*, 12: ‘They said if you come to South Africa there is a shelter where other kids live’

Twelve-year-old Precious is one of the thousands of migrant and refugee children to have found their way to Musina, the northernmost town of South Africa, just 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from the Beitbridge border crossing with Zimbabwe.

She crossed the border two years ago and is now living at the Christian Women’s Ministry (CWM) Children’s Project, in an old church nestled between houses on the outskirts of town.

Train tracks run parallel to the main road there, and spaza shops – informal convenience stores run from people’s homes – line the streets. The buildings on the church property have been converted into a shelter for women and unaccompanied girls. Elsewhere in the town, a similar structure houses unaccompanied boys.

When Precious was six, both of her parents died – she has no idea why or how. For several years, she lived on the streets of Beitbridge. Like other street children, she heard many stories about the opportunities South Africa could offer.

“They said if you come to South Africa there is a shelter where other kids live, and you can get your bed and get education and clothes for free,” she recalls.

She crossed the border alone.

Read further:

Themes: Statelessness
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2020