Visa-free travel to Ireland could be ending for South Africa: report

 ·29 Apr 2024

Ministers in Ireland will reportedly be discussing a move to end visa-free travel for South Africa, according to the Irish Times.

The paper reported that the Irish cabinet would likely discuss the move this Thursday (2 May) as part of a strategy to clamp down on asylum applications.

Citing figures from the Irish Department of Justice, the paper said that 198 people have applied for asylum in Ireland on South African passports – but there have been increased instances of Zimbabweans and people from the Democratic Republic of Congo travelling on these passports.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris was quoted as saying that this was a “relatively recent phenomenon” that required more action.

The Republic of Ireland is one of a handful of European countries that South Africans can travel to without needing a visa, and the only ‘western’ European country. The others being Georgia, Kosovo and Russia, all on the eastern bloc.

Visa-free travel to Ireland has only been in effect for about three years since the last time it was stopped due to Covid-19 related risks.

BusinessTech reached out to the Irish embassy and the South African Department of Home Affairs for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Foreigners travelling on South African passports is not a new occurrence, and the security of the local passport has come under question in recent years.

Widely publicised incidents of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals travelling on South African passports in 2022 caught global attention when they were apprehended for fraudulent immigration.

This led to airlines in countries like the UK subjecting South African travellers to often humiliating ‘authenticity’ checks because they did not trust the document.

Several high-profile busts of syndicates operating in South Africa soon followed, along with the Department of Home Affairs tightening up security processes in an attempt to restore confidence in the security of the document.

In the end, travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan were required to apply for a visa when transiting through South Africa.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index, South Africans can travel to 108 countries visa-free – including Ireland, for now.

Since the last index, South Africans can now travel to Kiribati in Oceania without a visa.

Many countries South Africans can travel to without a visa are found in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Caribbean and Asia.

However, popular emigration hotspots for South Africans, including the UK, Australia, and the USA, still require a visa.

Read: The cost of a South African passport vs Australia, USA, New Zealand, UAE and more

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