Home Affairs postpones stricter child travel rules

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The Department of Home Affairs has postponed the implementation of two tighter regulations on travel for children after the tourism industry raised concerns, the department said on Tuesday.

The controversial new rules, which require children to carry a birth certificate and a letter of permission from their parents in order to travel, were due to come into effect on Oct. 1 but have now been postponed to June 1, 2015.

The rules make up part of a new immigration law which came into effect on May 26. It included requirements that children carry their own passports, applications for new visas be made in home countries and biometric information be submitted in person.

The tourism sector argued that the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate for children and the provision for collecting biometric data could impact on the competitiveness of South Africa’s tourism sector.
“While the requirement that all children possess a passport has been implemented successfully, challenges have been raised regarding the requirements for the Unabridged Birth Certificate and written permission,” minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba said in a statement.

Gigaba said he was also taking into consideration the upcoming Christmas period and giving parents time to get their children’s documents in place to comply with the new regulations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents most of the world’s airlines, welcomed the move. “IATA supports South Africa in its efforts to tackle child trafficking. We are also grateful for Minister Gigaba’s receptive approach to the concerns that we have raised about the practical implementation of some of the new immigration requirements and we look forward to working with the Minister’s special task team in identifying international best practices and developing effective and pragmatic methods to implement the requirements,” said Raphael Kuuchi, IATA Vice President, Africa.

Last year nearly 10 million tourists visited South Africa, up about 4 percent from 2012, in a key contributor to the continent’s most developed economy.