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'Unabridged birth certificate backlog cleared’

The new visa regulations require all children travelling into or out of SA to have unabridged certificates.

FILE: Department of Home Affairs branch. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Amid fierce criticism, the Home Affairs Department says it has managed to clear a backlog of over 4,000 applications for unabridged birth certificates.

The department's new visa regulations kicked in today requiring all children travelling into or out of South Africa to present unabridged certificates.

Those planning trips to SA will also have to report to South African embassies in their respective countries for the collection of biometric data.

There has been a backlash from tourism associations which claim the industry will suffer a massive knock due to the tighter regulations.

But Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete says the department has a responsibility to ensure national security.

"What we should all be doing, the people who are concerned about tourism, about national security, human trafficking and about the safety of children is making sure that people have the right information to come in and out of the country. That should be our priority."

Meanwhile, the department says although it has had a few problems implementing its new visa rules today it has complete confidence in the intensified regulations.

Officials say they experienced minor issues at the Lesotho border where students under the age of 18 attempted to make their way back into South Africa without the correct documentation

Tshwete says despite mixed reactions to the department's new visa regulations; the first day has been a success.

"It's gone as it was expected to go, with most people complying and then minor incidents around the land ports of entry."

While the department claims to have had minor incident, there have been reports of an Indian tourists being turned away in the Western Cape.

A child in the group was reportedly denied a visa after failing to produce the relevant documentation.

IMPACT ON TOURISM

The tourism industry has described the new regulations as impractical and an extra burden which will lead to disinvestment.

It affects tourists who want to travel to South Africa as they must now personally visit South African embassies abroad while minors need an unabridged birth certificate.

Single parents will also need to provide affidavits of consent from absent parents when travelling with a child.

The South African Tourism Services Association (Satsa), which represents more than 1,000 companies, said it will consult members and decide how to challenge the new regulations.

Satsa's David Frost said the new regulations mean chaos.

"People in Bulgaria are totally oblivious to this and when they arrive in Frankfurt, South African Airways (SAA) asks them, 'Where is your birth certificate 'and they don't have any. They have a prepaid non-refundable holiday and they're put on a plane and sent back to Bulgaria."

He said the tourism industry will suffer severely.

At the same time, some role players in the tourism industry are considering challenging the new visa regulations in the courts.

Frost said, "I think they are making it up as the go along. There is no best practice internationally. We are the only country in the world that is introducing this and you would think if it was such a light bulb moment more sophisticated countries that have been dealing with child trafficking for many years will go down this route. This is actual lunacy."

To view the new regulations, _ click here_.

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