New immigration rules regarding the collection of biometric data and minors travelling by air into, out of and through South Africa (see stories here and here), have raised concerns for the Association of Southern African Travel Agents.
ASATA has repeatedly asked Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to consider a 12-month deferment of the implementation date, which is currently set for 1 October, and to meet with industry bodies to discuss the impact this will have on the various sectors of the travel and tourism industry.
A request for assistance in clarifying some of the concerns raised was sent to relevant Home Affairs representatives three weeks ago, to which ASATA has yet to receive a response.
Although the Department of Home Affairs has stated a turn-around time of four to eight weeks to issue a new unabridged birth certificate for travelling minors, ASATA suggests these timelines are closer to between four and six months, depending on which Home Affairs office receives the application.
This, as well as a lack of a clear communication, has created much confusion in the industry and ASATA members are turning to the association to provide clarity.
According to ASATA, the organisation stands behind efforts to secure South Africa’s borders and protect its children, however it questions the effectiveness of this new requirement in meeting the Home Affairs Department’s objective to reduce child trafficking.
ASATA says a birth certificate is not a recognised travel document anywhere in the world – passports and visas serve that purpose, with the necessary process behind acquiring one to ensure that it is fit for that purpose.
ASATA is calling for a 12-month grace period in order to ensure minimal short-term disruption to the industry, whilst maintaining the Department of Home Affairs’ objectives.