Destinations Africa

South African Immigration Rules Target Child Trafficking, But Hit Family Travel Too

Jul 11, 2014 9:30 am

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There have to be better ways to combat child trafficking than scaring off legitimate families and groups from traveling.

— Jason Clampet

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Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Getty Images


South Africa is to introduce new rules that will significantly increase paperwork requirements for those travelling to and from the country with children.

From October 1 2014, parents travelling to South Africa with a child – defined as those under 18 years – will need to produce an unabridged birth certificate that shows the names of both parents, with a sworn translation if not in English. For single parents, or those travelling alone with their child, the new regulations are likely to prove even more off-putting. They will also need to produce an affidavit in which the absent parent gives consent for the child to travel, a court order granting full parental responsibilities or legal guardianship of the child, or the death certificate of the absent parent. A further rule requires that the affidavit should be no more than three months old on the date of travel.

If under-18s are travelling with someone other than their parents, the accompanying person must also carry the child’s birth certificate, alongside affidavits from the parents or legal guardians, copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian, and their contact details.

To be allowed to travel alone to South Africa, under-18s will need to produce not only an unabridged birth certificate, but also proof of consent from both parents, or legal guardian, their contact details, and information on who they will be staying with while in the country.

Under the new rules, all documents must be originals or approved copies. The regulations were initially going to come into force from September 1, but after an outcry from the tourism industry, and the fact that it can take two months to obtain birth certificates in South Africa, the date was delayed.

South African Airways, the national carrier that operates flights from seven UK airports, confirmed that would be implementing the new rules on flights. A spokesperson welcomed the increased regulations, saying that they “are designed to ensure the safety of children.” He confirmed that from October 1 SAA would not be able to check in travellers unable to produce the necessary documents.

The UK Foreign Office travel advice for South Africa is less categorical, advising travellers to carry the various documents “in case you’re asked to provide them.”

In a release issued by the South African government news agency, Derek Hanekom, the Tourism Minister, said that the rules are being implemented in an attempt to prevent child trafficking. However, he acknowledged concerns raised by the tourism industry, including tour operators and travel agents, saying that “unforeseen and unintended negative consequences must be taken seriously.” He said that the tourism ministry would “carefully consider any negative impacts of well-intentioned measures on international tourist arrivals and the attractiveness of our destination.”

Lisa Grainger, the author of Telegraph Travel’s essential guide to South Africa, raised the issue of problems for single mothers or fathers who perhaps aren’t in touch with their child’s other parent. She added: “South Africa’s tourist industry is struggling, and this is not something that will help. The country needs to make visiting easier, not more difficult.”

Pippa de Bruyn, Telegraph Travel’s Cape Town expert, said that the “sledgehammer approach” of the new regulations would hamper the plans of “every legitimate family and school tour travelling to or from South Africa.”

South African newspapers reported concerns raised by those working in the country’s tourism sector, saying that the regulations were complex and potential tourists were confused about what was required.

David Frost, chief executive officer of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Associations (SATSA), told the online newspaper news24.com that the requirements to carry children’s birth certificates act “as an additional hurdle that damages our competitiveness as a destination. It creates a barrier to entry with financial and/or opportunity cost that a prospective tourist needs to overcome in order to travel to South Africa”.

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