Botswana has introduced similar requirements for children travelling into and out of the country as South Africa.
Minors travelling through Botswana’s borders will be required to produce certified copies of unabridged birth certificates in addition to their valid passports effective from October 1, 2016, Botswana government said in a statement on Thursday.
“We will not allow any children under the age of 18 to enter or our country without the documents we require from parents,” Director of Immigration and Citizenship Mabuse Pule told Tourism Update. According to Pule, industry stakeholders in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector were consulted. He further advised all in the affected sector to include this requirement in their website and advertorial packages so that parents who travel with children to Botswana do not suffer inconvenience at port of entries.
In the event that one parent is not travelling with the child, the other parent’s affidavit consenting to such travel should be presented. However, an affidavit will not be required if the father’s name does not appear on the child’s birth certificate.
However, operators suggested this was a sudden move. Walter Smith, Marketing Director for Desert & Delta safaris has told Tourism Update that they have received the notification late. “We received this information yesterday, 20 days after the regulations were imposed/implemented.” Smith, however, pointed out that the impact could be minimal as the vast majority of their guests transited via South Africa, which has the same requirement.
According to the official statement, the development aims to manage the movement of children across the country’s borders and has the “ultimate goal of tackling human trafficking which is a global challenge”.
David Frost, Satsa CEO, told Tourism Update that he was “gobsmacked” by the move after it did damage to South Africa’s tourism industry. South Africa did not have the benefit of access to information detailing the economic impact of such a requirement. “We’ve gone through all the pain, I’m just gobsmacked that a country like Botswana, which has a massive tourism industry, would actually look at all the pain we’ve gone through and the lack of due process and replicate that in Botswana,” said Frost. He added that Home Affairs had still not provided the industry with any evidence as to how the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate tackled the issue of child trafficking.
Mareike Pietzsch, Marketing Content Developer at Jenman African Safaris, was surprised by the new requirement and said this would not contribute to promoting ease of travel in Southern Africa. “South Africa is a child-friendly destination, and the unabridged birth certificate requirement has shown to negatively affect tourism,” said Pietzsch. “It means we have to brief our clients about the extra documentation, and make sure that the international travel agents we work with are informed, and they in turn inform their clients.”
Pule said he was aware of stakeholders who were unhappy with the requirement, but argued that tour operators should consider the security and protection of children and not just focus on profits.