Cape Town - From a commercial and economic perspective, the airline industry is concerned that "the harsh and onerous requirements South Africa has prescribed for travellers" will negatively impact on the sustainability of air services, travel, trade and tourism to, from and via South Africa.
This warning was issued by the International Air Transport Association (Iata). The industry body, which represents 84% of global air traffic, said it noted with concern South Africa’s new immigration measures that came into effect on Monday.
"Iata and its member airlines want to be part of a solution that helps reduce instances of the terrible crime of child trafficking. But it is in everyone’s interests that measures used to stop the illegal movement of people, do not have unintended side-effects that cause greater harm than good," Iata said on Monday.
"That would undermine the country’s economy – which is already vulnerable and fragile – with serious repercussions that would be felt across the entire sub-Sahara region."
Iata said it fully supports South Africa in its "laudable campaign to combat child trafficking", but airports are not the only points of entry and exit to a country. It is also worth noting that the South African Police Service's official crime statistics for the period March 2004 to March 2014 do not mention a single reported case of child trafficking.
Lack of information
Equally worrying for the industry is the lack of information flowing from the departments of Home Affairs and International Cooperation on the questions surrounding their readiness and ability to apply the new regulations. Both with respect to accepting and processing visa applications under the new regulations and to the effective enforcement of the new measures.
According to Iata the SA minister of home affairs in September 2014 agreed to stop the clock on the implementation of the new regulations until June 1 2015, and to appoint a joint Government and industry task group to research international best practices and make recommendations on the new regulations and their implementation.
No task team
"For reasons unknown to us, and despite several attempts to maintain an open channel with the minister’s office, this task group was never appointed and none of the tasks undertaken," said Iata.
"Moreover, earlier this year South Africa hosted a meeting of African Union transport ministers where they committed to implement a single common market for African airlines.
In their current form, South Africa’s new immigration regulations stand as an impediment to this and represent a potentially harmful example of a lack of joined-up and coordinated policy making."
Due to these concerns, Iata has asked the SA Government to act in the best interests of the country and review, modify, and if necessary, rescind the new measures if they do not have the desired effect.
"If they act as a handbrake on travel, tourism and economic growth, not just for South Africa - which is experiencing its weakest gross domestic product (GDP) performance in decades - it will impact the entire region," said Iata.
A group of international tourists from India have become one of the first reported casualties of South Africa's new unabridged birth certificate requirement for travelling minors.
The unabridged birth certificate requirement for minors travelling into or out of SA came into effect on Monday June 1.
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde received the correspondence from an India-based tour operator on Friday, who said that a group of 45 people are likely to cancel their trip because one of the children travelling in the party had not been granted a visa.
The Indian consulate has raised concern because in that country, the details of both parents are endorsed in a child’s passport. Winde said this clearly renders the passport “an equivalent document” to a unabridged birth certificate.
“The tour operator stated that all its tour groups spend nine nights in the Western Cape. Research by the tourist industry indicated that the average spend per international tourist is around R5 000. Therefore, the visa refusal may cost the Western Cape economy well over R200 000," said Winde.
There are more than 200 000 people employed in formal jobs in the tourism sector in the Western Cape, these jobs are now under serious threat, in his view.
He added that the Western Cape Government’s Red Tape Reduction Unit was continuing its research into the impact of the visa regulations. These findings will be forwarded to the office of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Winde called on the National Government to provide clarity on the status of the visa regulations review.
“On Friday, Minister Jeff Radebe reiterated President Jacob Zuma’s statement that a review of the regulations would be taking place, but to date no such process has been initiated. We need clarity on whether and when this review will be going ahead,” said Winde.
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