Streetkids banished for COP17

2011-10-20 00:00

DAYS before thousands of delegates descend on Durban to discuss the welfare of the Earth at the COP17 Conference, police vehicles will pick up street children and they will be kept in shelters temporarily.

But the problem won’t go away unless it is addressed at its heart,say children’s right organisations.

Metro police spokesperson Eugene Msomi said police will round up all the street children and adults who beg at intersections. “The street children will be handed over to social workers in places of safety while the adults will be arrested and taken to courts,” he said.

Said Dumisile Nala, chief executive of Childline SA, it seems police are tasked with removing the “embarrassment” from the eyes of international visitors.

“Why are they removing them only when there are big events and where are they taking them to?

“In the past we have heard stories of children who were taken to places that nobody knew of,” he said.

Msomi admitted that beggars are removed from the streets during important events such as the football World Cup or COP17 Summit because tourists become soft targets for muggings and are intimidated.

“We are not ashamed or embarrassed by the street kids, because this happens all over the world. Our concern is the crime they commit,” he said.

He said the city has received complaints from motorists that some street children beg aggressively. Many street children are responsible for pick-pocketing and robberies, especially on the beachfront, he said.

Msomi said the police have always tried to enforce the anti-vagrancy by-laws against adult street beggars, but the courts often released them with ­only a warning because the magistrates see them as a social problem.

He said the police are working with partners like the Social Development Department and social workers to make the process a humane one.

rowan.sewchurran@witness.co.za

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