Ryanair forces South Africans to prove citizenship through an Afrikaans test

  • Ryanair says it is moving to curb entry of fraudulent passport holders
  • Afrikaans is spoken by only 12% of South Africans
  • The South African government cracks down on forged documents

DUBLIN / JOHANNESBURG, June 6 (Reuters) – Ryanair (RYA.I) South African travelers are required to prove their citizenship before traveling by completing a test in Afrikaans, a language used by only 12% of the population long identified as apartheid and the white minority.

Europe’s largest airline by number of passengers, which does not operate flights to and from South Africa, said it is asking any UK-bound passenger from the country to fill out a “simple questionnaire” due to what it described as a high prevalence of South African passport fraud.

“If they are unable to complete this survey, their travel will be refused and they will be issued a full refund,” a spokesman for the Irish airline said.

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South Africa’s Home Office, which has warned against unions selling fake passports, said it would issue a statement on Ryanair’s test.

The UK High Commission in South Africa said on Twitter that Ryanair’s test was not a requirement of the British government to enter the UK. The Irish High Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The low-cost carrier said the test would apply to any South African passport holder traveling to Britain from another part of Europe on the carrier. The airline did not immediately respond to a query about why it would apply to those routes, given Britain says it is not a requirement.

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Zinhle Novazi, a South African lawyer, faced the test while traveling on Ryanair from Ibiza, Spain, to London on May 29.

Some of the questions include naming South Africa’s tallest mountain, its largest city, and a single national holiday.

“I was able to answer the questions,” said Nowazi, who learned Afrikaans at school but is not a native speaker of the language. Then she was allowed to board the plane.

Novazi wrote to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation on 1 June but did not receive a response.

The department did not respond to a request for comment.

The test sparked a backlash from South Africa in Johannesburg.

“It is very discriminatory for a whole group of South Africans who do not speak Afrikaans,” Siviwe Jwala told Reuters.

“They are using this (the test) in a completely ridiculous way,” said Konrad Steenkamp, ​​CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council.

Afrikaans is the third most spoken of the 11 official languages ​​in South Africa, and is used by 12% of the country’s 58 million people. It has always been identified with apartheid ideology and was considered the official language until the end of apartheid in 1994.

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(Reporting by Padric Halpin in Dublin and Promet Mukherjee and Nkopil Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by Alison Williams and James Macharia Chigi

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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