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'New visa regulations need better enforcement'

Home Affairs maintains the new regulations are necessary to combat child trafficking.

Passengers at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Home Affairs Department says the administration problems of the new travel requirements for children require better enforcement with the support of the tourism industry and not a full review.

After meeting several child advocacy groups on Thursday, the department has agreed protecting children is non-negotiable and the regulations are here to stay.

The new regulations stipulating children must travel with an unabridged birth certificate has come under fire with the tourism industry saying the regulations will cause a drastic drop in tourism numbers.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the high number of child trafficking cases in South Africa alone emphasizes that a more regulated process is necessary.

"The prevalence of child trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa is high, with South Africa and Nigeria on top."

Gigaba once again defended the regulation saying the social cost of human trafficking will be bigger than the administrative checks and balances on travellers.

"The fundamentals of minimising the vulnerability of children will remain unmovable, but the modalities of administration can be modified and simplified for the convenience of travellers."

He says the department will be looking into future plans of amending children's passports to include the parents' details.

REACTION

Several child advocacy groups say the amendments to the requirements of children travelling in South Africa is the right step to stopping the high number of child trafficking cases in this country.

Save The Children's Gugu Ndebele says while the department must address the administrative challenges, the new regulations are necessary.

"Save The Children supports the regulations. We do agree with the minister that a lot needs to be done in ensuring that systems are in place and that they're responsive to the challenges that are facing people. But the fact that we have challenges doesn't mean that the regulations are wrong."

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)'s Rayana Rassool says South Africa's regulations are not unique and they must be enforced.

"From Unicef's side, yes we would like to see enforcement of those regulations where they exist and also alignment to the UN convention on the right of the child."

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