The Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) says the amended regulations published in Government Gazette No. 10177 (dated November 29 2018) on the requirement for foreign minors to carry unabridged birth certificates do nothing to help South Africa market itself as a family-friendly destination.
The Government Gazette was issued a month late, following announcements made by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba in September that changes would be announced in October’s Gazette for foreign visitors travelling to SA in terms of improved visa regulations and the requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate.
Satsa CEO David Frost said: “The amended regulations continue to be confusing and remain a deterrent to family tourism to SA. Amending the wording has done nothing but provide an obfuscated message to our overseas tourism partners and travelling consumers.”
According to the amended regulation, where a child presents a passport containing the details of his or her parent or parents, an immigration officer shall not require the child to produce a birth certificate.
“Our key source markets typically do not issue passports including the names of both parents, so this amendment will not ease their access in any way,” said Frost.
The Gazetted regulations also state that children who are foreign nationals and who are visa exempt are strongly advised to carry supporting documents as stipulated in the advisory since they may be requested to produce them when travelling through a port of entry of SA.
It is up to the immigration official at that port of entry to request the documentation if they deem it necessary. If these documents are not submitted within 24 hours, admission will be refused.
“We would like to know in practical terms, for example, what the process will be when families arrive and are refused entry for the 24 hours in which they are sourcing the documentation? Will they be allowed entry into the country? Will they be allowed to make a phone call while waiting in the immigration area?” said Frost.
Satsa’s position remains that these regulations were promulgated without any meaningful data on the extent of child trafficking, no economic impact study as to the damage it would do to the tourism sector, and without any consultation with organised tourism. Furthermore, after three and a half years, no data has been produced by home affairs to indicate how these draconian regulations have reduced child trafficking.
“We turned away 13,000 passengers with prepaid holidays in the first year alone. It is an anathema to suggest simply that these regulations now mean that SA is in line with other countries, such as Canada and Australia.”
Frost said the private tourism sector, which transacted to deliver tourism, had been patient for many years while government departments sidelined the tourism industry in all discussions around the issue.
“We would have been able to provide constructive and informed feedback on how the regulations have impacted the tourism sector and subsequently the economy. Satsa members are unequivocal that the current rewording does not in any way assist to actively market SA as a family-friendly travel destination and to claw back this lucrative, lost segment.
“Our members are now also required to provide detailed clarity on what this means in practice for tourists coming to SA and, at this stage, there are more questions than answers.”
It is Satsa’s view that maintaining any requirement to produce an unabridged birth certificate, even in certain circumstances, places a further obstacle to families coming to SA and the industry’s ability to support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attempts to stimulate the economy.
“If the president truly wants to see the tourism sector deliver the numbers and associated economic growth and jobs, he needs to intervene and scrap these regulations outright. A separate discussion based on international policing best [practices] should address any concerns around child trafficking.”