Cape Town – Following a report of an average of 10 families a day that are being denied boarding to South Africa from Heathrow International Airport in London, for failing to adhere to the new visa rules that require of all minor travellers to travel with an unabridged birth certificate, many travellers have reached out to Traveller24 in a desperate cry for help.
SEE: 10 families a day denied boarding to South Africa from Heathrow
Holiday cut short
One traveller, Adele Ferguson, contacted Traveller24 saying, “I was supposed to get on a flight [from London] last Wednesday with my two children to visit my ex-husband’s family, who is a South African.
“[We were booked on a] flight to Addis Abbaba and were [supposed to be] traveling on from there to Cape Town.
“They would not let us on the flight in London, as I did not have the affidavit or birth certificates.
Ferguson says she managed to change their flight, but the first available date was on 23 December. She also had to pay almost R18 000 more for additional flight costs.
“We have to return on the same flight on 31 December so we are having a seven-day holiday instead of a two-week one."
She says she had booked the flights in June with Flight Centre and at the time, there was no mention of unabridged birth certificates. She says she also received “no communication about the change in travel terms”.
When asked about the issue, Flight Centre's Sharmila Ragunanan told Traveller24 the "new visa regulations only came into effect in June, which means that they were very new when the traveller made her booking and no one could foresee the impact they would have on travellers".
"We are now seeing the impact of these regulations, which were amended in October, but which are continuing to cause ongoing problems for visitors to South Africa. We urge the government or the Department of Home Affairs to urgently issue clarification of the matter and to ensure that all the relevant parties are aware of the requirements to avoid further instances like these."
On Monday, 21 December, Home Affairs Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete told Traveller24 that although the onus rests on travellers to carry the necessary documentation, "it doesn’t help when you have tourism leaders who are not encouraging people to comply with the rules".
"Whether they agree or disagree with the regulations, [the tourism leaders in South Africa] should have given more energy to informing travellers of the necessary documentation they have to carry," Tshwete said at the time.
Regardless of who is responsible for obtaining the visas, travellers and travel officers, it seems, are confused about what the necessary travel documents are.
‘Broke as hell in London’
Johannesburg-based traveller Frances-Ann Douglas also contacted Traveller24 saying the check-in officials and immigration desk at OR Tambo International airport gave her contradicting orders when she she was supposed to travel from Johannesburg via Paris to London with a minor on 17 December 2015.
“At the check-in desk we were turned away as they want the original copies of the father’s consent.
“We did not fly. On Friday, 18 December, with all the documents in hand, we went back and had to pay R8 670 penalty.
This time, Douglas says, they “went through check-in with no problem”.
“At the immigration desk at OR Tambo, [the officials] asked why we didn’t fly the previous night. After telling them my story, they told us that the check-in desk was wrong. The fathers name does not appear on the unabridged certificate so there was no need!
"They've messed up everything," Douglas says. “I am deeply affected and financially drained” by the visa issues. "I don't know who to turn to, as we are now as broke as hell in London."
Dewy Wurcher also wrote to Traveller24 saying, “I have family in Cairo who were refused entry as they do not have the birth certificate translated into English! They have translated them but officials [are] insisting on an original stamped translation!”
READ: SA’s revised visa rules: What you need to know
Apart from the confusion, travellers are also frustrated for having to wait months for the unabridged birth certificates.
Border-crossing traveller Ross Jordan contacted Traveller24 saying he has travelled with his now 5-year-old son over the South African border multiple times before.
On 1 October this year, Jordan applied for his son’s unabridged birth certificate and told he would receive it within six to eight weeks.
“It is now 11 weeks later,” and the Jordans are not able to travel over the SA border legally.
“In the beginning of December I wanted to go to Botswana. I went to the Edenvale Home Affairs with all [the necessary] documents in hand to obtain a temporary travel document/affidavit, only to be turned away after a two-hour-wait due to the fact that my wife was not with me.”
Concerned traveller Lisa du Plessis also contacted Traveller24 saying she applied for her two children’s unabridged birth certificated on 20 March 2015, and is yet to receive her one child’s documentation.
She now fears she will be unable to travel with her children in March next year, 12 months after she had applied for the necessary documentation.
“I travel in March 2016 need to apply for visas, which also require unabridged birth certificates.
She says she has required about the documents on two occasions, without success. “Each time I am told there is nothing they can do they have a backlog.”
Home Affairs Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete, told Traveller24 the implementation of the relaxed visa regulations is well on track, with the "legal instruments" needed to facilitate this change to be effective in January, as scheduled.
DA Tourism Minister believes the only way to solve the "draconian visa regulations" that has been cause for a concerning drop in SA tourism.
SEE: DA Tourism Minister pleads with Ramaphosa to escalate roll-out of e-visas
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