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“From the 1st of June, children below the age of 18 travelling into and out of SA will have to carry a full unabridged birth certificate.”

Tumisho Grater – CNBC Africa Anchor:
South Africa’s new visa regulations came into effect today. The regulations will see children travelling with unabridged birth certificates at airports across the country. Craig Smith, he’s an immigration lawyer, he has more insight on this. Craig Smith, thanks for your time. We are joined by Gary Boison from Vunani Private Clients.

Just to give us some insight, some reminders, take us back. These regulations that are coming into effect: what are the changes that are being made?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Thank you for having me. The immigration regulations, specifically regulation six-twelve, came into play on the twenty sixth of May, 2014. That was the date in which it was gazetted and that’s the date in which it took effect. Nothing has actually changed apart from the Minister in a news conference saying he will delay the implementation. So, it’s not a new law, it’s the same regulation that took place – that took effect on the twenty sixth of May.

In essence the regulation pertains to the travelling of minors and accompanying parents, or accompanying one parent, or if the child is unaccompanied, or if the child is indeed accompanied only by a relative. So this particular regulation has come into play. Unfortunately it was noted in the draft regulations and there were a lot of people that opposed it, but it found itself in the exact same version in the new regulations in the twenty sixth of May, 2014.

Gary Boison – from Vunani Private Clients:
Craig, ya just, I was watching an interview with the, I think it was the head of the Association of Travel Agents, and they were saying that South Africa now is the only country in the world that’s going to need the unabridged birth certificate. Is that true?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
That is true. If you do your research, if you look at Mexico which doesn’t have a great human trafficking record, you look at America, you look at Germany, you look at the Bahamas, you look at Brazil, which I find a close comparative with; none of them require the full birth certificate.

What we have gone one step further and required the unabridged birth certificate. Ironically when a child travels unaccompanied they don’t ask for a full birth certificate. So I do think we find ourselves a bit over-zealous and have gone a bit over the top, in fact I was on an interview on Friday night where the Director made the point: one child that’s potentially kidnapped is one child too many. But it seems that, you know, they made this particular law without consultation, proper consultation, and I think they’ve made the law without proper empirical evidence because the subject of human trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking is a very complicated subject, and there’s no clear cut empirical evidence as to how large a scale this phenomena is in South Africa.

Tumisho Grater – CNBC Africa Anchor:
Craig you are an immigration lawyer and obviously this is something that you deal with on a day to day basis. What are some of the other issues that have emerged? We did say that people have been up in arms about this, but maybe just give us some kind of as to why it is that they are upset. What are some of the loopholes here?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Well, I mean you’re dealing with a reliance on a department that I don’t believe is running a hundred percent effectively. Not only are they struggling with a backlogs on foreigners wanting to come into South Africa but now they want to impose a further strain on its capacity by now having to issue full birth certificates, and I just don’t think they have the capacity.

There’s that, there’s a cumulate effect which specifically is the bugbear of the travel industry where they talk about the requirement now where if you want to get a travel visa, if you’re non-visa exempt, specifically the Asian countries and you wish, and you’re from China, you have to travel a thousand kilometers to Shanghai or Beijing, or you’ve got no travel visa. So hence the busloads of Asian tourists are no longer.

Gary Boison – from Vunani Private Clients:
And obviously this is, ya you’re going to have a massive impact on our tourism industry. Anyone can see that. As an immigration lawyer I’ve also heard that a number of the tourism associations are going to challenge this in the court system. What do you think is the likelihood that they could perhaps get this reversed or appealed?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Ya I think that’s a very good point. If I was advising the tourism industry I certainly would believe that there’s a strong challenge, remember regulation six twelve is merely a regulation that was made by the Minister. This is not an act of Parliament, this was not primary legislation. This was merely a regulation that was drafted by the then-Minister, Minister Milady Pundle, and the question is whether there was sufficient consultation on the subject.

For such a subject that has massive implications for the tourism industry, the question is whether there was enough consultation, whether there was enough of an opportunity of the travel industry to make their point heard, and whether in fact Home Affairs did its homework, scientifically or empirically, to determine if there is in fact a strong need.

I want to just make one other point. I mean our borders are porous, we’ve known this for a long time. And Jake Azuma in his inaugural State of the Nation Address in 2009 said we’ll have a border management agency. And I personally believe that we should be looking at our porous borders, as opposed to tightening up what’s happening at airports, because I don’t think that’s where the issue actually lies.

Tumisho Grater – CNBC Africa Anchor:
Craig thank you so much. That was definitely some interesting insight there, some food for thought, and now I’ve got a little bit more clarity on the situation and asking some very pertinent questions there.

Thanks to Craig Smith, he’s an immigration lawyer and he was speaking to us on those visa regulations.

Breakfast Beat, your voice in the morning.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
Welcome back to Breakfast Beat: Your voice in the morning on this beautiful Monday morning.

Time now twenty two minutes passed the hour of seven and from the first of June children below the age of eighteen travelling into, and out of, South Africa with have to carry a full unabridged birth certificate. To tell us the importance of this we have the Cape Town Immigration Lawyer, Craig Smith on the line. Good morning to you and welcome to Breakfast Beat.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Yes, hi. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
Pleasure’s all ours. Can you tell us more about this new immigration law that’s coming into effect on the first of June and how will this affect minors under the age of eighteen years old?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Well Yousef, this particular law came into play, in effect, on the twenty sixth of May 2014 already. Which was supposedly the rationale behind it was to countenance child trafficking. Which in some things is applaud, nevertheless when it was introduced there was a lot of pull with the travel and tourism industry to argue that this affected numbers and volumes of entries into South Africa, etc. So what the Minister of Home Affairs then did, is he essential said he would not apply until the first of June this year. I mean, it’s always been there, it’s always been in existence and the rational is really one of those that is designed counter act child trafficking which is something that is applauded.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
That is so true. Even looking at some of what’s been happening here in Cape Town, some teenagers got on planes without even consent from their parents and stuff like that. Besides that you have, as you mentioned, the rationale we’d be talking about Minister Alastair Windy. He’s been up against this from the time it’s been talked about. And there’s been so many times he’s informing us how it’s currently affecting tourism so much that there’s been a big loss in the tourism industry.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
I’m not so sure this specific regulation is the main cause of the drop in travel and tourism. I think it’s the immigration regulations as a whole. And one of the principle issues with the new regulations is if you are from abroad and you’re wishing to travel into South Africa as a tourist, in the past you would simply, if you were non-visa exempt that means you’d have to get a Visa to enter South Africa. You could ordinarily, through your travel agent, just get the Visa when the passports were couriered to the respective South African mission. Now what’s happened, which is especially a problem in Asia and China especially, where you actually need to go in person. Now in China for example it’s only Shanghai and Beijing; so you could stay thousands of kilometers away and simply to go and get a Visa you would then argue, “Well instead of my going to South Africa for my holiday I’m going to go to South America.” So that to me is the biggest issue with the travel and tourism. I don’t, personally, I don’t believe it is such a major problem to carry around a birth certificate and potential a letter of consent. To me that is not particularly onerous in relation to the rational that they’re trying to counter act.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
I agree with you. Especially with the part where you were saying that according to accommodating, where a birth certificate needs to be endorsed, for example; especially in China and in India. There’s quite a few differences the Minister made when we did have him on. Where you’re saying those are the main reasons why you have a lot of the tourists are not coming to South Africa because looking at inconvenience that they have to endure just to get the Visa and to apply for the tourist packages that needs that. That is what he actually referred to as the main reason. But then this also mentioning also that with a full unabridged birth certificate travelling also on boats and other means of travel that’s also a problem. It’s not just the plane alone.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Well, I mean, look, if the Department of Home Affairs – the Department of Home Affairs is made up of the civic section and the immigration section. The civic section deals with those unabridged birth certificates for travellers, you know at the end of the day if the Department of Home Affairs is fairly efficient in issuing the unabridged birth certificates then I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to impose this regulation. If on the other hand the Department of Home Affairs is tardy and inefficient in the issuing of these full birth certificates, well then I think we have a major problem because it is the real issue would be the inefficiency of the department in failing to issue the full birth certificates on time. And so, there potentially, if that’s let down, that could result in that sort of frustration by travellers.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
I agree. You have a lot of people at least complaining of the letter where they’re not doing a proper service in certain areas and some of them are doing excellent work. So why is that standard of service and quality of service not maintained? And that’s a major question.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Well, it’s a very good question. That’s potentially the million dollar question. The department, the demands of running the Department of Home Affairs, I mean it’s a huge department that requires massive organizational abilities and planning, which is really the science of management. The argument could be that if you did not have the right core of intellectual ability in those positions then that’s going to be felt. And that is certainly one possibility of where it is breaking. I mean, the Department of Home Affairs has changed considerably in its personnel. And one wonders whether the personnel, the incumbents in the positions are equipped…

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
To handle it.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Yes. Correct.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
Last question before we go. Is there any exemptions for this full unabridged certificate? Is there any possible way people can actually go ahead with exemptions?

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Well, the problem would be, I mean, on what basis would one want an exemption? Let’s just say you apply timelessly for your full birth certificate, you’re wanting to travel to Asia, you apply a couple of months in advance. Let’s assume you don’t have it. To then attempt, say you don’t have it, to then ask the department for an exemption; that in itself is an administrative procedure that requires almost a separate intervention. It’s quite a cumbersome process if things start to fail in the ordinary course of events and you can’t get a birth certificate, getting an exemption is a process in itself so it doesn’t… arguably it’s very cumbersome and bloated.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
I do agree. It is very bloated and you have a lot of people already complaining about how we face an awful mess when you have to come there, you spend hours on end trying to get your papers endorsed. But I just say thank you for making yourself available. I am speaking to Craig Smith. He is Cape Town’s Immigration lawyer. Thank you for making yourself available and have a wonderful day further.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
You too. Thank you for having me.

Yusuf Mallie – Presenter at Voice of the Cape:
A pleasure.

Craig Smith – Immigration Lawyer:
Bye.

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