Border jumping on the increase as passport woes reach fever pitch

MUTARE – The nonavailability of passports has forced desperate Zimbabweans to cross the borders illegally in search of survival means, a situation that has compromised their rights to life, personal security and human dignity. 

This was said by Ellen Sithole,  the deputy chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission at a media briefing of Public Hearings on the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe in Manicaland province held at a local hotel on Tuesday.

“The Commission had observed that with the prevailing socio-economic  challenges, possession of a passport does not only facilitate freedom of movement as contemplated in section 66 of the constitution but is also a source of livelihood,” said Sithole.”

Many of our people today survive on cross border trade. If passports are not readily available, people have no choice but to cross borders illegally,” she said adding that this will compromise their rights to life, personal security and human dignity in the process.”

They will also be vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation, abuse and modern forms of slavery and servitude,” explained  Sithole.

“Without national identity documents, enjoyment of rights is therefore hindered or limited,” said the deputy chairperson.

 Her remarks comes after the Zimbabwe registrar’s office is facing a huge backlog of passport processing as millions of Zimbabweans are applying for passports.

The main objective of the national inquiry is to inquire into challenges in accessing national documents and the extent to which they affect people in Zimbabwe.”We want to assess the impact of lack of documentation on the enjoyment of human rights that are guaranteed under international and regional laws as well as our constitution by people in Zimbabwe,” said Sithole.

She added that the public hearings will formulate recommendations and follow up actions for addressing barriers identified in accessing national documents.”A person who is not registered does not legally exist, is not a citizen of the country and runs a substantial risk of falling outside the reach of government’s protective measures towards him or her,” Sithole said.

The commission will be receiving oral evidence from selected representatives from the seven districts in the province. All written submissions that that will be received will be fed into the national inquiry report.