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‘Gigaba, please let us help you’ Today's News

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More than 20 airlines have written to the South African government over new immigration regulations, warning that these will be a "tourism, PR, economic and political disaster”.

The open letter is published in its entirety below.

On July 31, in a quietly released joint statement with the Department of Tourism, the Department of Home Affairs all but admitted that it was not prepared for and had not considered the consequences of some of its new immigration regulations – adding further weight to a travel industry call for a 12-month postponement to some of the new laws. 

Furthermore, based on recent public statements by Jackie McKay, deputy director general of Immigration Services, it’s clear that the ‘international benchmarking’ behind some of the new requirements is based on dangerously inaccurate information.

Passenger safety and security is the number-one priority of the international airline community and any measures to protect children and improve border security has the full support of the industry. However, the Department of Home Affairs is clearly confused and trying to address the right problems with the wrong solutions or the right solutions at the wrong time. 

Tourism and related services are some of the largest sources of employment in South Africa and a recent independent report estimated that the ‘unintended consequences’  of these new immigration regulations could cost South Africa up to R10 billion in lost tourist income as well as a loss of over 21 000 jobs. 

On June 3, in an attempt to facilitate full and proper collaboration, the international airline community in South Africa requested a 12-month delay to the implementation of the unabridged birth certificate requirement for travel by air but, to date, there has been no response. 

The Department of Home Affairs is ignoring the potential economic risk to South Africa. More than that, it has admitted there is inadequate infrastructure to facilitate in-person visa applications across the world; it has made false assertions that most other countries require children to travel with unabridged birth certificates and it has a non-existent global communication strategy.

It is clear that the Department of Home Affairs is not ready for its own rules and is happy for South Africa to pay the price. The DHA must stop ignoring the numerous organisations that can help it achieve its goals without unnecessarily threatening South African jobs and disrupting the travel of tens of thousands of law-abiding families. The global travel community wants to help South Africa avoid a tourism, PR, economic and political disaster, but the DHA seems intent on that course.

Starting October 1, airlines will be forced to deny boarding to every family with under-18s of any nationality travelling to and from South Africa who are not able to present an unabridged birth certificate on departure. 

Dear Mr Gigaba and Mr McKay, please let us help you. 

Simon Newton-Smith

Head of Middle East & Africa, Virgin Atlantic Airways 

On behalf of Air France, Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, Air New Zealand, British Airways, China Southern, Condor, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, fastjet, FlyAfrica, Jet Airways, KLM, Korongo Airlines, Lufthansa, Malawian Airlines, Rwandair, Qatar Airways, SWISS and Virgin Atlantic Airways.  

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