South Africa’s new immigration laws are set to come into law on 1 June 2015, a move that could seriously damage the country’s tourism industry. Ineng held an Entrepreneurs in Public Policy event on this very issue in October 2014, inviting members of the travel industry and government to a talk discussing the issues held at the Cape Sun Hotel.
From the 1st of June, people travelling in and out of South Africa will be required to have unabridged birth certificates for the children travelling with them, and to have affidavits from the children’s parents if they are not flying with them. In addition, those applying for South African Visas will now have to do so in person, adding extra expenses and hassles to their journey.
EWN reports International airline Virgin Atlantic saying that it expects to have to turn some foreign passengers away at airports when new regulations come in on Monday, and that airlines are going to suffer financially as a result. Africa Check reports that an open letter from twenty international airlines last year called South Africa’s new immigration requirements – including the need to apply for a South African visa in person – a “tourism, PR, economic and political disaster”.
If you think that unemployment number is going to get better…. pic.twitter.com/ANz2CqO55m
— Justice Malala (@justicemalala) May 26, 2015
Above: Political commentator Justice Malala comments on the new Immigration regulations
Political commentator and entrepreneur Justice Malala is just one of many people who have expressed concern at the new bills. The SABC reports that Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has openly expressed concern over government’s new immigration legislation.
Minister Hanekom stated that:
“We want to contribute towards the global effort to combat human trafficking and child trafficking in particular but we need to do it in such a way that it doesn’t have unintended negative impacts on our tourism flow. Then the other one is in person applications for visas. Recognising the need to tighten up our security, we think that there are better ways of doing it that we don’t do it in such a way that it has a negative impact on tourism. We are worried about the current situation and we are in clear discussions to find a way out of it.”
However, despite concerns from the Minister of Tourism, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says he will not go back on a decision to implement new visa requirements next week.
Above: Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba (Photo from GovernmentZA)
Minister Gigaba also stated that his priority is the safety of children.
“South Africa should not accept that they are children who arrive in this country without being properly identified if they are travelling with anyone but their parents. There is a lot of crime and South Africa should never relent in protecting children.”
Human trafficking is a major crime and must be addressed. However, it seems unlikely to be solved by the new immigration regulations, which instead will have the unintended consequences of harming job creation and progress, which in itself is a major harm to millions of South Africans. A decline in foreign visitors is likely to exacerbate unemployment by causing a decline in tourist spending and therefore a result in the number of jobs the tourism industry can support.
Economist Thomas Sowell is noted for saying that with regards to public policy “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.” This aptly describes the situation facing the Home Affairs department of South Africa – will the new immigration requirements reduce child trafficking by such a degree that it is worth the loss in revenue and jobs by the tourism industry?
Africa Check reports that two attorneys at Lawyers for Human Rights, said that the measures to be introduced by Home Affairs will not prevent child trafficking. “Real human traffickers don’t follow legitimate and documented methods of travel but cross the border in illegitimate and clandestine circumstances. The regulations won’t prevent this.” The lawyers also argued that “so-called ‘innocent’ people may be on the receiving end of regulations intended to target human traffickers,”.
Therefore, according to experts in the field of human rights, the new laws are unlikely to deter the traffickers of children, as they do not travel through legal and legitimate means anyway. One can therefore assume that the trade-off of tourism vs. the safety of children is not a sound decision by government.
Stephen Grootes, writing for the Daily Maverick, states that the new laws have the potential to dissuade foreign airlines, such as Delta, from continuing their routes to South Africa because of the confusion around the new laws, as well as the chore of having to fly passengers (who are refused entry into the country) out of South Africa.
It seems that there is widespread fear of the damage this new law could cause to the nation’s tourism industry from a variety of sources, including those within government. Ineng agrees that the new laws have the potential to harm the tourism industry, particularly small-scale entrepreneurs running tour companies, guest houses, gift shops and other businesses in the tourism sector.
Ineng intends on holding events in the coming weeks and months dealing with South Africa’s new immigration laws, as well as a variety of other policy issues facing entrepreneurs. To keep up to date with future events, please join our mailing list.