Low-cost airline Ryanair has announced that it will require South African travelers aiming to enter the United Kingdom to conduct a test in the Afrikaans language to prove their nationality. The controversial decision, which sparked outrage among travelers and online, was made in a bid to restrict passengers with fake identity documents from entering the country.
According to World Data, there are around 8 million native Afrikaans speakers in South Africa. The country has 11 official languages, and only around 13% of South Africans speaking Afrikaans as a first language.
The origin of the language dates back to the early 18th century, evolving from one of the Dutch dialects spoken by various Europeans, including Dutch, French and German nationalities. The language was imposed during white-minority rule in South Africa.
“Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, we require passengers traveling to the U.K. to fill out a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans,” Ryanair wrote in a statement issued to AeroTime on June 7, 2022. “If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund.”
While Ryanair does not provide direct air connectivity services between South Africa and the UK, the carrier confirmed that it will administer the test to all South African passport holder who aim to board flights to the UK from other countries across Europe.
However, the British High Commission in Pretoria said on Twitter that the test “is not a U.K. government requirement,” meaning that the move is considered an airline initiative.
Criminal syndicates manufacturing and selling fake South African passports and IDs is a state-wide problem and one the South African government has been working to solve.