Foreign Children in Care: Comparative report of foreign children placed in child and youth care centres in Gauteng, Limpopo and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa

Published: 1/Jul/2019
Source: Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town


To have a meaningful existence in South Africa, identification documentation is vital. A variety of rights flow from such a document; it establishes a nationality, an identity, and an ability to function within a formal society. For a child, an identification document is crucial in their ability to access their most basic rights, and to plan a meaningful future.

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) is an NPO offering specialised services to migrants, refugees and South Africans. The Advocacy Programme aims to promote and strengthen the rights and integration of migrants and refugees in South Africa, through providing individual advice and advocating for legislative and policy reform. Through its specific project advising caregivers of unaccompanied and separated foreign children, SCCT found a need amongst social workers and service providers within the child protection system to understand the different positions and particular challenges faced by foreign children in need of care and protection. This led to surveying every case of a foreign child placed in a Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC) across South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The resulting report was published in September 2015, on Foreign Children in Care in the Western Cape Province.

The aim of the 2015 study was to establish the number of foreign children in care and gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges faced both by the children and the institutions caring for them. The findings informed conclusions and recommendations to assist service providers and relevant authorities in their approach to the cases of migrant and refugee children.

The issues faced by migrant and refugee children in CYCCs is an issue requiring policy-based solutions. For this reason, SCCT sought to survey all foreign children in care across Limpopo and Gauteng provinces. This was done jointly between SCCT, the International  Organization for Migration (IOM) and the University of the Western Cape.

In recent years, there has been increased interest – both nationally and regionally – in unaccompanied and separated foreign children. In 2015, the South African National Steering Committee on Unaccompanied and Separated Children1 was established to seek understanding and solutions on the issue. In October 2017, governmental departments and civil society organizations signed resolutions at the Colloquium on Separated and Migrant Children in South Africa. The resolutions sought to combat the issues faced by foreign children in South Africa. Research on foreign children was commissioned in order to guide the committee. In 2017, IOM published their Study on Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The increasing interest, from both the South African government and civil society, to develop solutions for migrant and refugee children is welcomed by SCCT. This study seeks to assist the formulation of solutions by analysing the position of unaccompanied and separated foreign children within the context of refugee and immigration law, and by exploring the area where migration meets children’s rights. The study looks at the profile of foreign children across Limpopo, Western Cape and Gauteng accommodated in CYCCs, the children’s reasons for migration and the circumstances around placement in residential care institutions. It also looks at efforts made by social workers to trace and reunify foreign children with their families. Lastly, the children’s documentation status and pathways to durable documentation solutions is assessed. The study will conclude with key findings and recommendations to relevant authorities.

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Themes: Acquisition by children, Birth Registration, Statelessness
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2019