Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN
Ryanair has come under fire for asking South African travelers to take an Afrikaans test to prove their nationality before boarding flights.
The low-cost airline is being accused of racial discrimination after presenting passengers with a test in the West Germanic language, which was forced upon black South Africans under apartheid and is only used by an estimated 12% of the population.
News of the test came to light last month after a passenger traveling from Portugal to London revealed on Twitter that he’d been asked to complete “a two page test in Afrikaans” before being permitted to board his flight.
The move sparked fury among South Africans, with many taking to social media to criticize the airline, pointing out that South Africa has 11 official languages, and many nationals do not speak Afrikaans.
‘Insane and discriminatory’
Independent aviation analyst Alex Macheras described the decision as “categorically insane and discriminatory.”
Ryanair has since released a statement declaring that the test, made up of questions related to South African general knowledge, was issued as a response to the “high prevalence” of counterfeit South African passports.
“In order to minimize the risk of fake passport usage, Ryanair requires passengers on a South African passport to fill out a simple questionnaire in the Afrikaans language,” reads the statement provided to CNN.
“If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund instead.
“Airlines operating to the UK face Home Office fines of £2,000 (around $2,515) per passenger for anyone who travel illegally to the UK on a fraudulent passport/visa.”
The UK High Commission in South Africa has also responded, pointing out that the questionnaire is “not a UK Government requirement.”
Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in South Africa after Zulu and Xhosa.
Ryanair does not operate direct flights to or from South Africa.
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