By Jean-Pierre Le Scour, October 2015. Six months’ progress report on the Moçamibique / RSA Border.
As you may know, the control of the 68 kms border between Ressano-Garcia and Mbuzini has been given to the South African Defence Force who this replaced the South African Police Forces. These soldiers are based in Macadamia Camp near Naas (Kwa Maquekeza) where most of the people trafficked from Moçambique pass through the local taxi rank. It would be easy to control and check this place and block the traffickers and their taxis … but is there a will from the competent authorities to do so?
Through the Border Post of Ressano-Garcia an average of 800 men, 300 women and 10 children cross illegally every month. What was reported to me, and verified visually, is that women pass very often with very young babies, sometimes only a few months old, and young children who are not their own. Children have been seen running away but they are coerced (forced) into crossing the Border. Since 1 September 2015, new Border crossing regulations allow only the children to cross the Border with both parents and an original birth certificate.
Trafficking or smuggling people has become a business at the Border. On the Moçambican side, you have the “Gatunos” a semi-organised group of youngsters, the “Community Police” with a red arm band, local police and Border Guards. From RSA, the “Matsinyane” taxi operators from Naas, SADF and “Ninjas”. All these people are looking for money. If you do not pay, you are beaten up, robbed and might land up in a police station at Ressano-Garcia or Komatipoort. If you pay your way, you pass without any problem even without travel documents. If the “traveller” resists his little money, possessions and always cell phones are taken away from him by violent means.
The month of September has been marked by an increase in the number of children disappearing, age range between 8 and 14 years. One of them was able to fight off the aggressor but was hit with a broken bottle in the race and received 8 stitches. I have organised a workshop in all the schools about the dangers of living in a small border town and given a course in self-defence to a few volunteers.
Forced repatriation from South Africa to Moçambique continues unabated with an erratic time-table which makes it difficult to organise basic help to these returnees. One of the biggest repatriations was on 15 May 2015 with about 500 persons on board a train. Subsequently, the authorities seem to prefer to use busses. Two or three times a month up to 10 busses cross the Borders without stopping and dump their “human load” at the Border Guards’ barracks where they are being lectured on what will happen to them if they ever try to cross to South Africa again. Then they are told to go … every time at the railway station or at the barracks of the Border Guards it is discovered that a few of these returnees are not Moçambican at all.
Regular meetings are organised at the Border with the “Commisāo Mixta”: it regroups border guards from both countries, police, immigration, ONG, Catholic Church. This meeting reports on cases of trafficking, border violations, mistreatment of repatriated people and manner of repatriation. At the last meeting at the end of August we were informed of the new Regulations concerning the crossing of minor children (under 18 years of age).
Following my latest reports, good contacts have been established with the CTIPC (Counter Trafficking In Persons Office). A meeting has been set down for 10:30 on the 5 October 2015 at Khanya House to meet with a delegation from the Vatican. Workshops are being conducted in the Nkomazi District as well as in Moçambique.
TRAFFICKING OF CHILDREN FOR ORGAN REMOVAL
The sale of human organs from Moçambique to South Africa continues and with the increase of children disappearing, it is a very worrying trend. A few years ago, a Brazilian Sister (Doraci Edinger, 53, a Sister of the Servants of Mary Immaculate) was murdered in Nampula for denouncing that practice. On 8 September 2015, an albino child was sold by his parents in Nampula – cases that surface are only the tip of the iceberg. A friend of mine, who works at Customs, told me that he intercepted, at the Border, a man who was carrying a bottle full of human genitals. Since the economic situation is very precarious and two-thirds of the country are affected by drought, we are likely to see an increase in the trafficking of young children for any purpose but mostly economical. We can as well question the demand for “muti” (remedies) with a component of body parts, mostly from albinos. Government ONG and Churches should be able to embark on a campaign to destroy these false beliefs. If they do it about the rhinoceros horns, they could do it as well in order to save fellow human beings.
Poster campaign for young girls who want out of the system and to warn them about the risk of being trafficked.
– More than 2000 (Africa Unite – say no to xenophobia – Prayer for Peace) tokens have been distributed everywhere: Border post, schools, administration, Parishes. Thanks to Michel Meunier, M.Afr
– Two places of safety continue to work both sides of the Border.
– Parents’ meetings are organised at various schools to ask them to care more for their children, tell them not to accept lifts or sweets from strangers, not to walk to and from school alone.
– The “CommisāoMixta” demands the application of the law in South Africa to punish severely trafficking in human beings and recommends net-working between Moçambique and South Africa between organisations concerned, Churches and Government instances.
– One member of the “CommisāoMixta” repatriates regularly, to their country of origin, girls who have been trafficked and children who have been abducted.
– The “Escola Esperança” in Ressano-Garcia is welcoming underprivileged children, orphans and children with difficulties without distinction of race, creed and gender – Christian and Muslim children learn to live in peace and harmony.
– A place at the Komatipoort Airfield has been identified as a stop-over for truckers. The manager of the land distribution office is in favour. It would be a take-away restaurant with an ablution block where activists could work on the truck drivers. We now wait for financing and personnel through the CTIP.
All these activities are but a drop in the ocean, but the writer takes the greatest encouragement from our leader, Pope Francisco, who puts the plea of the migrants and the trafficked people at the centre of our Pastoral duties, and shows by his action and words how much he cares. And official of IOM has underlined in his own words the urgency of this Pastoral care: “The most hidden aspect of this trade in bodies, regardless of origin or gender or purpose of the trade, is that within these bodies, reside human beings with hopes, dreams emotions and ambitions – and even a sense of justice; justice which so often eludes them with it matters most”.