South Africa has introduced a new set of tough visa regulations that has left the tourism and airlines on the edge amid fears they will force tourists to stay away from the country.The rules, that affect mostly people travelling with children, became operational on Monday.
What we are seeing here is akin to taking a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito
According to the department of home affairs, minors travelling with both parents now have to produce an unabridged birth certificate with full details of both parents, as well as a passport and visa.
If the child is travelling with only one parent, immigration authorities require the written consent of the other parent, even when the parents are divorced.
Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee said it welcomed the introduction of the regulations and views them as a tool to deal with the rising international threat of child trafficking.
Lemias Mashile, a member of the committtee said they remained “cognisant of the teething challenges that might arise due to the implementation of these new regulations especially to the tourism industry”.
He said the committee was convinced that the measures put in place by the department were adequate to deal with any challenges that might arise.
However, the committee urged the department to clear any backlog in the provision of unabridged birth certificates in South Africa.
The government estimates 30 000 children are trafficked into South Africa annually, often for prostitution or child labour.
But opposition parties, human rights groups and tourism firms say the number of trafficked children in South Africa is much lower than government estimates.
The home Affairs department said it was forging ahead with the regulations while dealing with the enquiries.
Meanwhile, tourism bodies say the tough new visa regulations would hurt the tourism sector, a main job creator in the local economy.
David Frost, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) chief executive said the new rules “would hurt the industry”.
Frost, according to a Media 24 report, said airlines would bear the cost of repatriating travellers without the correct documents.
“What we are seeing here is akin to taking a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito” he said.