SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Border towns and spaces of (in)visibility

Published by: SIHMA

This report explores the significance of border towns and spaces for strengthening responses to young people on the move. In particular it explores the linkages of young people to local service centres with the aim of further developing service, protection, and support strategies for migrant children in border areas across the region. The report is based on a small-scale fieldwork study in the border towns of Chipata and Katete in Zambia conducted in July 2023. Border towns and spaces provide a rich source of information about issues related to the informal or irregular movement of young people across borders, including smuggling and trafficking. They can help build a picture of the nature and scope of the type of movement young migrants undertake and also the forms of protection available to them. Border towns and spaces also provide a lens through which we can better understand the vulnerabilities of young people on the move and, critically, the strategies they use to navigate challenges and access support. The findings in this report highlight some of the key factors shaping the experiences and vulnerabilities of young people on the move – particularly their proximity to border spaces and how this affects the risks that they face. The report describes strategies that young people on the move employ to remain below the radar of visibility to state and non-state actors due to fear of arrest, detention, and deportation while also trying to keep themselves safe and access support in border towns. These strategies of (in)visibility provide a way to protect themselves yet at the same time also heighten some of the risks young people face as their vulnerabilities are not always recognised by those who could offer support. In this report we show that the realities and challenges of life and migration in this region and in Zambia need to be better understood for support to be strengthened and tuned to meet the specific needs of young people on the move. This includes understanding the role of state and non-state stakeholders, the impact of laws and policies and, critically, the experiences of the young people themselves. We provide recommendations for immediate action, recommendations for programming to support young people on the move in the two towns that would reduce risk for young people in this area, and recommendations for longer term policy advocacy.

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Border towns and spaces of (in)visibility