City Press gets a Glad for dedicating a full page to outstanding articles highlighting the struggles of child refugees in South Africa and in their home countries, particularly Zimbabwe.

One of the articles published, “Fleeing kids flood Musina” (City Press 27/06/2010, p.9), reported on the difficulties faced by NGO’s trying to provide for these children, as well as the failure of Limpopo’s government to fulfil its legal obligations and provide unaccompanied child refugees with the necessary documentation. This documentation enables child refugees to access the basic services that they are entitled to. “According to the law, once children cross the border unaccompanied, the social development department becomes legally responsible for them,” the article reported.

City Press found that a report by Mèdecins Sans Frontières supports its own investigations which found that “…the department doesn’t have the capacity to fulfil that role. Every newly arriving child has to be presented to the Children’s Court within 24 hours by a social worker to obtain legal documents and a placement order. Only then can children attend school and access government services. The court in Musina says it hasn’t received a single application yet. Therefore children risk arrest if they leave shelters to go to school.”

City Press not only highlighted government’s legal obligations to these children, but also the risks posed to child refugees as a result of its failure to meet these obligations.

A 17-year-old boy from Zimbabwe was accessed in two of the articles: “Fleeing Kids flood Musina” and “Zimbabwe’s Oliver Twists turn to crime to survive.” The journalist only provided the teenager’s first name (Matthew) and hid his identity in a photograph taken with two of his friends. This is good practice as it minimized harm to all three children.

Matthew spoke about his desire to go back to school and how his best subject is Mathematics but the journalist shows the difficulties now faced by these children saying that Matthew, “…is forgetting those lessons quickly as he is learning a lot on the street.”

Matthew and one of his friends could apparently name five other children deeply involved in criminal activities. This brought awareness to how the children, who came in search of a better life, are now very often at the mercy of gangs and turn to crime. “In six months here Matthew has learned how the gangs rope in children to help smuggle illegal immigrants across the border” the article reported.

Statistics were also provided in the feature. It gave the number of children who cross the border into South Africa daily and an approximation of how many Zimbabwean children live on Musina’s streets. It quotes the Zimbabwean Finance Ministry’s figure of how many Zimbabweans have moved to neighbouring countries in search of work: 4 million. It also gives the reasons why people, especially children, are leaving Zimbabwe. According to the article these include a prohibitively expensive education system, poverty and health care issues including a measles epidemic and a high rate of HIV among the young population.

Media Monitoring Africa congratulates City Press on an eye-opening piece.