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Department of Home Affairs respond to airline immigration complaints saying it won’t back down

Department of Home Affairs respond to airline immigration complaints saying it won’t back down

Department Of Home Affairs Respond To Airline Immigration Complaints Saying It Won’T Back Down

By Estelle Vosloo

On Thursday the Business Day reported that the South African Department of Home Affairs will not be slacking its strict new immigration policy, saying the security of the country and its people is its first priority.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba reacted to an open letter written by Virgin Atlantic head of Middle East and Africa Simon Newton-Smith which was also sent on behalf of Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Egypt Air, KLM, Lufthansa and 13 other airlines. The letter listed their complaints regarding the country’s hard-line on the new immigration policies.

One of the complaints aired by the airlines was that in June they had requested a 12-month delay for the implementation of the law stipulating that children travelling by air carry an unabridged birth certificate, but received no response.

Speaking on behalf of Minister Gigaba, Mayihlome Tshwete, earlier this week said that the airlines could have made a bigger effort to contact Mr Gigaba.

"One e-mail doesn’t make a meaningful effort to contact us. This department is one of the most open of all government departments. All our senior staff’s cellphone numbers are on our website.

"If the issue was of such great concern, they could have made a better effort," he said.

Tswhete also said that the department were happy to hold talks with role players, but it would not compromise on its mandate of ensuring the safety of the country.
"The department is part of the security cluster (of ministries) and it has the mandate of protecting the entry and exits of people. Security is not a core competency of the airlines. Their core competency is to ensure people travel so they can make a profit," he said.

In the letter the airlines said that the Department of Home Affairs, "is clearly confused and trying to address the right problems with the wrong solutions, or the right solution at the wrong time".

The letter, addressed to Minister Gigaba continued to say that, "The Department of Home Affairs is ignoring the potential economic risk to South Africa.

"More than that, it has admitted there is inadequate infrastructure to facilitate in-person visa applications across the world; it has made false assertions that most other countries require children to travel with unabridged birth certificates, and it has a nonexistent global communication strategy.”

On the issue of human trafficking the writers of the letter said that Grant Thornton consultants estimated that enforcing the new rules could cost the country’s gross domestic product about R9.7bn. This was based on the multiplier effect of adults and children being unable to travel, numbering about 270,000 annually.

While the International Air Transport Association (Iata) also expressed their concern over the new travel legislation an aviation consultancy, Plane Talking’s MD Linden Birns, said Iata had engaged with Mr Gigaba and other government leaders on the immigration regulations.

"We understand the very conscious need to address human and child trafficking.…
"There is a sense that the new measures exceed those adopted by most other countries," Mr Birns said.

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