From the news desk

Unabridged birth certificate law impacting tourism industry

As of June 1, 2015, all minors under the age of 18 years were required to produce, in addition to their passport, an unabridged birth certificate, which details the particulars of both parents, when exiting and entering South Africa.  While many have lauded the decision, those within the tourism industry have voiced their frustration at the negative impact the law has had in sector.Earlier this month, the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) said it may be forced to take legal action against the government in a bid to scrap the newly implemented unabridged birth certificate requirement.

Supporting this sentiment, statistics provided by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), which was presented to Parliament on Friday, indicated that more than 13‚ 000 people were denied boarding to South Africa within a 12 month period.

Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of Tourism, James Vos, explains that obtaining an unabridged birth certificate includes a lengthy process and is virtually impossible to obtain for foreigners entering South Africa.

He, therefore, says that the newly enforced law has hindered the entry of travellers to South Africa, particularly tourists travelling with their entire families, most notably from the Indian Subcontinent.

“When it becomes impossible to obtain these documents and the lengthy process involved, these groups choose a different country to visit,” he stated.

Given the difficulties that tourists have encountered when applying for the documents, Vos affirms that it has had a negative impact on the tourism industry.

Vos further notes that the unabridged birth certificate requirement is “unnecessary”; an implementation that he asserts is based on incorrect data that the Department of Home Affairs has used in issuing the law.

“A 30 000 figure was used to come to this conclusion about an unabridged birth certificate requirement, which in our view is ludicrous, because there was only 23 incidents documented over an extended period reported by SAPS involving child trafficking,” Vos added.

While the department issued amendments on Friday, he says that it has not removed the shocking figure.

Vos says that 13 246 individuals were denied boarding into South Africa within a 12-month period, which he calculated to amount to approximately R7.5 billion in financial losses within the sector over one year.

“The Department of Home Affairs has been warned about these losses for more than two years and we presented alternatives to them, for example electronic visa’s that will fast-track the system.”

In addition, Vos asserts that the department has not implemented adequate measures to improve immigration processors at the country’s main airports.

He notes that from October 1 to 18, 2016, 800 people missed connecting flights as a result of lengthy queues, which he asserts amounts to R1.6 million.

“In am glad to hear that home affairs is going to open all immigration desks, but we will need to train those people, make sure that they are traveller-friendly, so everything must be done to ensure that we don’t have a knock-on effect,” Vos said.




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