TourismUpdate.co.za warns that irrespective of what officials might do or say in SA, it is at airline check-in desks overseas where parents travelling with children will held back and “things will implode”. Recent publicity that the stringent rules to only travel with minors of you have an unabridged birth certificate with you, has been relaxed, “could lead to tourists in large numbers arriving at airports and being denied boarding by airlines, who have to follow the letter of the law as gazetted in 2014, until it is actually amended.” warns the specialist tourism website.
Meanwhile the tourism industry and its stakeholders have expressed disappointment at the failure of the South African government to effect any real change to the unabridged birth certificate (UBC) regulation, which remains firmly in place, according to gazetted law.
In an article published by Tourism Update on February 12, 2016, the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) “recommended a dispensation in terms of which travellers would be ‘strongly advised’ to bring along proof of the relationship between the child and the parent or guardian, such as an unabridged birth certificate, or equivalent document with both parents’ particulars.”
Sound familiar? That’s because the statement made by then Director General of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Mkuseli Apleni, and was regurgitated on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, by current Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba: “The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign national travelling minors to carry documentation proving parental consent for the minor to travel, we will rather ‘strongly recommend’ that travellers carry this documentation.”
The then spokesperson of the DHA, Mayihlome Tshwete, at the time (February, 2016) said that in order to change this requirement, amendments needed to be made to certain sections of the regulations. He said this process, which included setting up an advisory board, was under way, and would probably be concluded in the next three months.
That was 32 months ago.
Gigaba said in his announcement that his department would issue an international travel advisory before the end of October 2018 after consultation with the Immigration Advisory Board (IAB). This was echoed by Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, in a statement on September 26 saying that the amendment to the Regulations would be gazetted by Gigaba for information in October 2018. “From the end of October 2018, when both parents travel with a minor, no additional documentation will be required,” said Hanekom.
Until the regulation amendment is gazetted, however, airlines remain bound by the regulation currently in force, and foreign nationals travelling with children will still need to have proof of relationship with the child and/or parental consent to travel.
TourismUpdate says “with history seeming to repeat itself, and mirrored statements made in 2016 and 2018,” the industry may rightfully believe UBCs could remain in place for another two years:
2016: …airline check-in staff no longer have to ensure that foreign passengers are carrying a UBC when travelling with a minor – statement made by Home Affairs, 2016.
2018: Foreign nationals travelling to South Africa will no longer be required to have unabridged certificates for their minor children upon arrival in South Africa – statement made by Home Affairs, 2018.
In the refreshed regime, when it happens, immigration officers will be trained to detect “high-risk” individuals at the gates, says Gigaba. But former DHA spokesperson Tshwete tweeted that putting the power of discretion into immigration officers’ hands would be counter-productive.
CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), Chris Zweigenthal, commented at the time in 2016: “Until there is an official change to the regulation, the requirement to carry a UBC is still the status quo” adding that he would advise people to not take a chance – bring everything.