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'New visa rules won't stop child trafficking'

The Centre for Child Law says the new regulations will do more harm than good.

A sample of a South African unabridged birth certificate. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The director of the Centre for Child Law, Ann Skelton, fears South Africa's new visa rules will drive child trafficking deeper underground.

The new rules stipulate people traveling with children into and from the country will have to carry unabridged birth certificates with them, but Skelton predicts the new rules will create chaos.

The Home Affairs Department has stated it will not renege on the new regulations as the measures will combat child trafficking.

However, Skelton is not convinced and said the rules will do more harm than good.

"People who traffic children don't usually take them through legal channels so all that would happen is that you would just drive that even more underground and also, it's so enormously inconvenient."

Skelton suggests the South African government should rather implement the regulations gradually and in stages.

THE NEW RULES, SO FAR

Despite concerns over new visa regulations, people at OR Tambo International Airport said while they have had to apply for additional travel documents for their children, these requirements haven't deterred them from travelling abroad.

A tourist, who arrived from the Netherlands, said she is lucky not to have been turned away because of missing documentation for her daughter.

"We were just lucky that we found out because when we checked in in the Netherlands they asked us."

She says she wonders if there were other people prevented from boarding the flight as she and her husband were the only two people travelling with a minor.

"We didn't see anyone with a baby, I think there might be a few people who were turned away."

She said apart from the lack of communication regarding the documents, the process of entering the country with her 10-month-old child has been without incident.

IMPACT ON TOURISM

Meanwhile, 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.

WATCH: 'New visa rules will threaten the economy'

The Home Affairs Department's Mayihlome Tshwete said there have been concerns over unabridged birth certificates, but this has now been resolved.

"We're able as a government and as home affairs to now read birth certificates that are not translated."

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.

LISTEN: SA travel agents predict chaos

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."

Meanwhile, Western Cape tourism MEC Alan Winde is also worried.

He reiterated the new regulations will have a disastrous impact on the local tourism sector.

"In this case, it's even worse if you coming from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) or from Africa, but in general now if you want to come and you got a family it's much more difficult."

To view the new regulations, click here.

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