Published on Thursday, June 12, 2014

South Africa to demand that child passengers carry birth certificates

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has delayed a contentious move that will require children to travel with an unabridged birth certificate, regardless of whether they are accompanied by parents or guardians.

Originally the department said the new regulation would apply from July 1, but it took the decision this week to extend its introduction to October 1.

The move has been bitterly opposed by BARSA, the Board of Airline Representatives in South Africa.

In a statement, BARSA said that "this unique requirement" would be introduced regardless of the nationality of the child and regardless of whether the child was travelling with parents, with other adults or unaccompanied.

"South Africa will be the only country in the world mandating this for travellers by air and, as a result will cause mass confusion and disruption to tourists and air travellers globally," BARSA said.

BARSA said airlines would be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of these documents and the disruption to travel plans, financial impact on service providers and reputational damage for South Africa was "inevitable".

The airline body said the policy timing could not be worse as South Africa prepares to welcome tourists over the peak European school holiday travel season.

"Air travellers and travel bookers in South Africa and overseas just don't know about this requirement and, why would they? A passport is the globally recognised travel document," said June Crawford, CEO BARSA.

The purpose of the unabridged birth certificate requirement is to create an additional verification to deter child trafficking and whilst BARSA said the goal was well-meaning, "the unintended consequences of the resulting confusion is significant".

"A child denied boarding by an airline ultimately means a family can't travel and, by industry estimates, until traveller awareness is 100%, tourist arrivals to South Africa could be negatively impacted by up to 20%," BARSA added.

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