Cape Town – Foreign tourists who have been rejected coming into South African say there is no way for them to acquire the necessary visas for minors, as these documents simply do not exist in their countries.
To make matters worse, these travellers say they are, or were, completely unaware that they didn’t have the right documentation going to the airport, as they followed the necessary steps as best they could.
Paul van der Bosch contacted Traveller24 following a report of confused travellers who had trouble with the controversial visa regulations.
READ: Visa regulations: More confusion from desperate, stranded travellers
The new visa regulations, aimed at curbing child trafficking, at first ask for all minors to travel with unabridged birth certificates.
Following public outcry and a worrisome drop in SA tourism, the visa regulations were amended for foreigners.
After a request by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) task team – established to investigate the effects of SA’s controversial immigration regulations - in October this year, Cabinet approved that the term “unabridged birth certificate” may be replaced with the term “birth certificate containing parental details” for foreign travellers.
READ: Visa requirements for foreigners travelling to SA revised
But in the midst of this confusion, travellers are having their SA holidays held up.
SEE: 10 families a day denied boarding to South Africa from Heathrow
Dutch citizen Paul van den Bosch is one of these travellers. Van den Bosch is married to a South African, and has two Dutch children from a previous marriage.
Before coming to SA, Van den Bosch says he had acquired “all documents long before time”.
But a gap in translation, from English to Dutch, saw them being denied boarding at the airport.
This is what Paul van den Bosch told Traveller24:
“We and 10 other children were rejected from boarding because our consent wasn’t verified by a notary of the municipality. Later I understood that this is a definition of an affidavit. That maybe logical in SA or the UK, but it just is completely unknown anywhere else!
“We were rejected by a rule no one knew and no one even could have foreseen. Even now it’s impossible for a municipality [in the Netherlands], where I live, to stamp my consent; it’s just something that does-not-exist here, period.
“So there we were with crying children, holding up the flight. KLM (our airline) did help us a bit, we could use next day’s flight, but this was the worst travel-experience ever. This has so much negativity for SA as a tourist attraction.
“Everyone saying ‘well, those are the rules’ - and we heard a lot of them say that - they did not realize the communication is so extremely bad, maybe specially for non-English speaking countries with the language barrier and the non-written procedures that exist in a country.”
Van den Bosch says they were eventually allowed to fly, but predicts that if the regulations aren't changed, “the effects on the tourist industry and the global view SA will be downhill”.
Tourism authority Holger Krogsgaard Jensen from Jensen Safaris says many of their clients have the same problem. Most recently, he says, a family of five was refused boarding at Hamburg Airport, in spite of bringing the original documents to the airport.
This was because in Scandinavia, from where most of Jensen Safaris’ clients originate, the State Church, and not the government, issue birth certificates.
Jensen wrote the following to Traveller24:
“The visa regulations remain a nightmare – we’ve had several guests off-loaded at huge cost to both us and our clients. Now that the decision has been taken to scrap the regulations, one cannot understand why it was not implemented before the busy Christmas season, when thousands of travellers bring their children.
“The restrictions on children under 18 could be scrapped with the stroke of a pen. Instead it is now left to individual check-in staff members to implement this impossible piece of legislation, which sows confusion every day.
“No other country has something called an “unabridged birth certificate”. If a client from a non-English speaking country, for example, tries to get a translation on the internet, it will say a “government-issued birth certificate”, but many countries do not issue such documents.
Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete told Traveller24 the DHA cannot answer generalized requests as to why certain people travelling with minors are not allowed entry into South Africa, and will handle all cases individually.
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