Zimbabwe and South Africa last week signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to address the plight of unaccompanied children crossing the border to the neighbouring country.
This was after South Africa had raised concerns some unaccompanied children might attempt to enter the country through dangerous or irregular means.
Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Gwanyanya Mpariwa signed the agreement with her South African counterpart Bathabile Dlamini.
Mpariwa on Tuesday confirmed her trip to South Africa saying besides signing the MoU, her delegation also toured some facilities holding unaccompanied Zimbabwean children.
“We had the opportunity to tour institutions where the children were being sheltered,” she said.
“We assessed and documented the children at the Walter Sisulu Centre, which is holding some of the children.”
She said her ministry’s long- term plan was to bring the children back home as Zimbabwe had similar institutions to take care of them.
“We have institutions under the National Plan for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children that we resuscitated with the help of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation,” Mpariwa said.
She added that her ministry was documenting all children in the South African facilities, in terms of their names, sex and age.
“South Africa is a signatory to various regional and international protocols on the protection of children,” Dlamini said.
“In terms of these protocols children in South Africa, whether foreign or not, should be accorded the same rights as all other children in our country.
“It is for that reason that we want to formalise the working arrangements between our two countries to ensure the best interest of undocumented and unaccompanied minors.”
She also noted there has been a major shift in national policy and assistance towards Zimbabwean children, who should now be deported to Zimbabwe, if they voluntarily choose to go back.
“A South African/Zimbabwe Cross-Border Sub-Committee has been established and has adopted standard operating procedures aimed at formalising processes of offering assistance to unaccompanied children.”
Hundreds of unaccompanied Zimbabwean children cross the border to South Africa every year.
South Africa last month resumed the deportation of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe after a one-year moratorium.