Unabridged birth certificates: a hassle‚ ineffective and a deterrent to tourism

30 March 2018 - 10:21
By Timeslive
Image: Jeffrey Greenberg/ Getty Images

The need for families to obtain unabridged birth certificates before travelling is a deterrent to tourism‚ which should be a growth industry‚ according to survey.

Research by Travelstart from February 12 to March 12‚ 2018 tapped into the views of 559 travellers‚ specifically‚ those who have travelled outside South Africa in the past two years with minors under the age of 18.

  • 67% of respondents said they needed to apply for an unabridged birth certificate to travel.
  • 41% of the sixty seven percent said their application took more than 6 weeks to process through Home Affairs‚ adding hassle‚ stress and cost implications to travel outside South Africa.
  • 27% said they encountered administrative problems related to the unabridged birth certificate.

Most respondents also said they encountered problems when departing South Africa. Survey participants cited immigration (55%) and check-in (42%) as the points in their journey where they experienced problems.

Everywhere in the trade‚ consultants have unabridged-related horror stories to share and 50% agree customers are confused by the regulation.

Most airline representatives were reluctant to comment about unabridged birth certificates saying: “it is a sensitive matter and they are only applying the rule set by government”. However‚ Travelstart said‚ two well-known airlines that fly to South Africa daily from hubs overseas confirmed their passengers experienced problems regularly and pointed to a lack of training for immigration officials and confusion at certain stations being the primary cause of unabridged issues.

From the airlines' perspective‚ most problems occur at immigration and check-in - aligning with passengers’ experience.

Twenty nine percent of travellers said they have been denied boarding in the past two years because of unabridged birth certificate regulation.

Travelstart also engaged members of the SA travel trade including independent travel consultants and those working for retail travel agencies. Travelstart found that foreign families travelling to South Africa are most negatively affected by unabridged birth certificates.

"Everywhere in the trade‚ consultants have unabridged-related horror stories to share and 50% agree customers are confused by the regulation."

Almost two thirds (67%) of surveyed agents said their clients have been affected by unabridged birth certificate regulation with foreign families travelling to South Africa (67%) and single mothers (33%) being the most negatively affected.

According to Aviation Barometer‚ published every quarter by Airports Company South Africa‚ growth in passenger numbers at nine airports held steady at just over 3% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Despite this growth‚ Travelstart said: "Unabridged birth certificates continue to prevent families from travelling. In many cases‚ travellers and airline staff at overseas origin airports are left to fend for themselves with the onus being on the traveller to carry the correct documentation..."

Tourism currently sustains 700‚000 direct jobs‚ but its growth is being stymied. The unabridged birth certificate policy should be reviewed‚ said Travelstart.

". . .The regulation is negatively impacting the tourism experience and more than likely deterring willing participants from a sector thirsty for growth. . .

"As the potential for growth in the sector is more than apparent and needed to boost jobs and the economy‚ those working in South Africa’s travel trade remain hopeful that revising the need for superfluous unabridged birth certificate regulation forms part of South Africa’s new dawn (as espoused by President Cyril Ramaphosa)."

Travelstart added the policy was not even effective in addressing the reason it was implemented - to combat child trafficking - as real human traffickers don’t follow legitimate and documented methods of travel but cross the border in illegitimate and clandestine circumstances.