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I saw an AP wire today that said the following, even though Ryanair doesn't fly to South Africa.

Budget airline Ryanair says it's forcing South African travelers to the U.K. to do a test in the Afrikaans language to prove their nationality in an apparent effort to weed out those with phony passports. ...

"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 said in a brief press statement. "If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund."

Who is using fake South African passports in Europe that made Ryanair do this? Is this a widely known problem?

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    This is unusual, to be sure, but is likely not irrational on Ryanair's part. It is a lot of trouble and expense for an airline when immigration refuses entry to an arriving airline passenger who was allowed to board by seeming to meet the destination country's entry requirements. UKVI could well be more accurate at discerning a fake SA passport than miscellaneous airline clerks elsewhere. A few instances of UKVI refusing admittance to Ryanair passengers presenting fake SA passports would get Ryanair's attention. Jun 6 at 17:12
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    It does make me wonder if being able to read Afrikaans is a requirement to hold a SA passport? I doubt it, as you can hold a passport and never live in the country, and that is besides the chance that people live in SA but not speak Afrikaans.
    – Willeke
    Jun 6 at 17:49
  • @Willeke The article notes, but I didn't copy it that only 13% of SA speaks Afrikaans as a first language, although a lot more speak it (acc. to WP). WP makes no mention of an Afrikaans requirement to receive an SA passport. Jun 6 at 17:56
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    Apparently less than half of the population speaks Afrikaans (even as a non-primary language). It’s quite possible even less know how to read or write it. Even though there’s probably some correlation between being able to afford a trip in Europe and fluency in Afrikaans that obviously is not an appropriate test and reeks of either ignorance r racist undertones. Cue reaction of the SA embassy or government in the topic.
    – jcaron
    Jun 6 at 18:31
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    There's also a photo of part of the test, which some passengers were told to take (whether this is done at all airports or only selectively is unclear). The test not only requires the ability to read Afrikaans (though some questions are on the verge of comprehensibility for English speakers and perhaps even more so for Dutch speakers); it also requires knowledge of South African geography, politics, etc... which some SA passport holders may lack if they're resident elsewhere or not into factoids. Jun 7 at 3:53

1 Answer 1

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The answer is in the question. Ryanair believes that many people who present South African passports are not entitled to them.

Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports,

Unfortunately, someone in charge of trying to figure out whether passports are fraudulent or not took a weirdly racist shortcut of "if you're a South African citizen, you will understand a language the majority of South Africans despise and hate, and be happy to answer trivia questions in it".

So the answer to your question of "why?" is

  • because governments make airlines take responsibility for fraud and bad behaviour by the passengers they carry
  • and because this airline made racist and culturally unaware assumptions, perhaps based on a handful of South Africans they had happened to meet, or on something they read in an old book

More details in this CNN article, including the confirmation that the UK government doesn't require anything like this.

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  • Well, yes, but I was hoping for more insight than what can be inferred from the first article Jun 7 at 17:51
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    All the articles say the same thing. Ryanair admits giving the quiz, asserts SA passports specifically are often fake, and doesn't want to talk about whether they give quizzes to anyone else or how they choose the language and questions. Not a single article I've read has included any quotes confirming this is an issue in general, never mind specifically for SA passport, nor that a trivia quiz is how to overcome the problem. I am not sure more insight is available. Someone did something without thinking it through and is now about to, as the saying goes, "find out." Jun 7 at 18:26
  • The New York Times reports that Ryanair has now abandoned the Afrikaans test. Jun 15 at 18:21

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