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Language Entry Requirement for South Africans Is Imposed by Ryanair, Not the UK Government

Dina Faisal Dina Faisal
4th June 2022
Language Entry Requirement for South Africans Is Imposed by Ryanair, Not the UK Government
Afrikaans test is not a UK entry requirement (Getty).

The Claim

The 'Afrikaans language test' is a new requirement for South Africans visiting the United Kingdom.

Emerging story

Social media users are widely circulating a claim that there are new entry requirements for South Africans to the United Kingdom, in the form of an Afrikaans test, or they will be denied entry.

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Misbar’s Analysis

The Misbar team investigated the claim and discovered it to be misleading; the Afrikaans test is required by Ryanair, not the United Kingdom.

UK Embassy Responds

The British embassy in South Africa responded to the widespread claim by tweeting that the Afrikaans tests "is not a UK Government requirement." They also stated that information on the requirements for South African passport holders to enter the UK is available on their website. Misbar analyzed the website and discovered no mention of any language tests required for entry into the country. The tweet is shown below.

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Further investigation revealed that this requirement originated with the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair. According to Section 40 of the UK Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the airline has a responsibility to "ensure that passengers are correctly documented for travel to their destination." "Due to the recent increase in passengers attempting to travel on fraudulent South African passports, our handling agents may request passengers traveling on a South African passport who are flagged during procedural security profiling to complete a simple questionnaire as an additional safety assessment to confirm whether they are correctly documented before travel," they added.

According to them, "language proficiency is the least intrusive further safety assessment method; this questionnaire is administered in Afrikaans, one of South Africa's most widely spoken official languages."

Regardless of their reasoning, passengers saw the entry requirement as unfair and discriminatory. It was a surprise test, which was exacerbated by the fact that they were not informed beforehand. At the time of writing, the entry requirement could not be found on Ryanair's official channels.

Ryanair Accused of Discrimination

Afrikaans is one of South Africa's 11 official languages of Dutch origin, but it is primarily spoken by white and colored South Africans. According to the 2016 census, it is not the most widely spoken official language, as claimed by Ryanair, as it is only spoken by 12.1% of the population. Given these demographics, Ryanair's decision to test only Afrikaans may be perceived as racist and discriminatory. It implies that if you do not speak Afrikaans, you cannot be South African. Furthermore, neighboring countries such as Namibia, and to a lesser extent Botswana and Zambia, speak the language. All of these factors combine to make it a poor predictor of whether or not a passenger is South African.

Authorities Investigating Ryanair's Language Requirments

Lunga Ngqengelele, a spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, confirmed that they were aware of the reports. Indicating that the Department of International Relations is working with its counterparts to resolve the serious issue.

It is unclear whether Ryanair is authorized to impose such a requirement on entry into the UK when the government does not. The Misbar team concludes, however, that the claim is misleading as the Afrikaans test is not a UK entry requirement but was initiated by the airline, Ryanair.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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