Gigaba’s crazy birth certificate rule is still causing families grief while travelling

South African families looking to travel overseas are increasingly being turned away due to strict birth documentation rules.

This is according to two new surveys published by Travelstart, which asked over 500 travellers and a number of major travel agents, independent travel consultants and airline representatives how they were being currently affected by the legislation.

“In a nutshell, the regulation requires all travellers travelling with minors (under the age of 18) to produce an unabridged birth certificate, and a letter of parental consent if the child is not travelling with both parents, when departing from and arriving in South Africa,” Travelstart said.

However, the regulation affects all travellers, regardless of nationality, who travel to and from South Africa with children, Travelstart found.

The regulations were introduced by home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba in 2015 under the banner of preventing instances of child trafficking. However, by 2016, after many complaints and a huge knock to South Africa’s tourism numbers, the department said it would rework the laws.

According to data compiled by the DA, the rules cost South Africa as much as R7.5 billion, due to lost business from blocked tourists.

But despite the departments promise to review and amend the rules, nothing has changed so far, with the regulations still clearly in effect.

This was corroborated by the Travelstart surveys, which found that 30% of respondents had been denied boarding because of the birth certificate regulation, while 67% of respondents said they needed to apply for an unabridged birth certificate to travel.

Furthermore, 41% of those respondents who applied for an unabridged birth certificate said that their application took more than 6 weeks to process, adding hassle, stress and cost implications to travel outside South Africa.

In addition, almost two thirds (67%) of surveyed agents said their clients have been affected by unabridged birth certificate regulation with foreign families travelling to South Africa (67%) and single mothers (33%) being the most negatively affected.

Travelstart said that most airline representatives were reluctant to comment about unabridged birth certificates stating that, ‘it is a sensitive matter and they are only applying the rule set by government.’

However, two well-known airlines that fly to South Africa daily from hubs overseas confirmed their passengers regularly experienced problems and pointed to a lack of training for immigration officials and confusion at certain stations being the primary cause of document issues.

From the airlines’ perspective most problems occur at immigration and check-in, aligning with passengers’ experience, Travelstart said.

“In many cases, travellers and airline staff at overseas origin airports are left to fend for themselves with the onus being on the traveller to carry the correct documentation,” it said.

“Most airlines flying to South Africa have adopted measures to protect passengers including making information available online, during booking and educating their staff though none of these are failproof.”


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Gigaba’s crazy birth certificate rule is still causing families grief while travelling