No relaxed visas for kids for Christmas
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Durban - Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni says requirements about unabridged birth certificates for travelling children will not be relaxed during the festive season.
Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday, he said the certificates usually took up to eight weeks to be issued, but if people had been waiting longer, they could get a letter to use in place of the certificate.
He added that the letter would only be issued to people who had already applied for the certificate and needed to travel with their children.
Apleni said for children who had passports, the department had done a “pre-modification” and would be able to issue certificates on the spot.
He said the department’s civic services branch had plans to assist those who would be travelling with children, and unaccompanied minors, and people would be sent smses if there were problems with their applications.
Children travelling alone also needed affidavits from their parents stating that the travel was permitted and the full details of the person they would be staying with.
The Department of Home Affairs would increase the number of workstations at ports of entry to make sure they were not affected by the increase in traveller volumes during the festive season.
Apleni said more personnel and resources would be deployed.
He added that operational and contingency plans would soon be rolled out at land ports like Beit Bridge and Lebombo, which continued to receive the majority of travellers during festive season.
It was anticipated that between December 10 and January some ports of entry would operate on extended hours with additional staff and extra resources.
“We have also made provision for technicians to be deployed full time at all ports to ensure that the systems fully support our operations out there,” he said.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba defended the visa policy and blamed the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa for deterring Chinese tourists from visiting the country, rather than the new visa rules.
Tour operators criticised Gigaba for introducing stringent visa rules, which they said had resulted in lost revenue of about $540-million (about R7.7-billion) a year.
“The drop happened at a time when there was an Ebola outbreak on the African continent. To blame the drop in tourism numbers on visa requirements is lazy,” Gigaba said on the sidelines of a meeting between President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The visa rules were relaxed in October to make it easier for visitors with children and those from India, China and Russia.
“We never made a mistake,” Gigaba said when asked if the rules had been a mistake. “That’s why we didn’t change the regulations. We changed the specifications.”
Gigaba said travel warnings by the US and the EU were unfair towards Africa. The West frequently issued travel warnings after attacks by Islamist insurgents.
“There is certainly hypocrisy in travel warnings. If you consider the scale of incidents in Africa, it’s very low compared to what you are seeing in the EU,” he said.
A Durban mother, Lauren Murray, told The Mercury that coping with the new regulations had been difficult.
She had been looking forward to an overseas cruise with her family, but had been “stressed' for months about her daughter’s unabridged birth certificate.
Murray said she had certificates for her three other children but had been waiting for her daughter’s certificate which she had applied for six months ago.
But there was a happy ending. She finally hired a concierge business, which assists people with the application process, and received the required letter from Home Affairs this week, which would allow her daughter to travel.
“I am so relieved that we have this letter so we can travel, but we still have to wait for the birth certificate,” she said.
Parents experiencing delays in processing of the certificates can call 072 634 0589, 072 634 0614, 073 567 6208 or 073 567 5968.