Children and the White Paper

Both the Green and White Papers on International Migration fail to mention the specific needs of migrant and refugee children. In response to this, joint submissions were lodged focusing solely on children’s issues. Migrant children have severe trouble accessing documentation options in South Africa. No systems exist to record entry of migrating children and therefore the number of undocumented children in SA is entirely unknown. Children born in South Africa to foreign parents are facing increasing difficulties in accessing birth certificates.

The White Paper does not mention children specifically (only in the family visa for highly skilled migrants). ‘Vulnerable groups’ will be held in the Asylum Processing Centre, which might include asylum-seeking children. Accordingly, we stress in our submissions that the detention of children should only be used as a last resort and if so, for the shortest possible period of time. This is set down in international and national law. Again, it would seem that Asylum Seeking Processing Centres would therefore be unconstitutional and contrary to international law. We urged, in our submissions, that the White Paper include a special permit for migrant children and ensure that data systems exist to understand the number of children in South Africa, including express provisions to issue birth certificates to all children born in South Africa, regardless of their parents’ nationality. None of these submissions were considered in the White Paper.