Ryanair Forces South Africans To Prove Nationality With Racially Discriminatory Afrikaans Test

Ryanair is under fire for racial discrimination, having required South African travelers to prove their nationality with an Afrikaans test prior to boarding the flight. The low-cost airline presented passengers with a brief two-page questionnaire in the West Germanic language, a language forced upon black South Africans under apartheid and is currently used by only 12% of the population. 

Ryanair said in a statement to CNN that the test was issued in response to “the high prevalence” of fraudulent 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. If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund instead.” 

However, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa explained to Reuters that the local governments are in constant cooperation with airlines to share any information necessary to curb fake documents: “”We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel.”

Afrikaans is one of 11 national languages in South Africa. With only a fraction of the country’s population that speak the language, this new regulation implemented by Ryanair is seen as a “backward profiling system.” 

In addition to the language barrier, questions on the test are notoriously difficult including naming the tallest mountain in South Africa and listing its largest cities. The Chief Executive Officer of the Africaans Language Council told Reuters that, “They’re using this test in a manner that is absolutely absurd.”

It is essential that in addition to ending the practice altogether, Ryanair issues an apology to South Africa for its extremely discriminatory practices and for opening racial wounds from the apartheid era. The CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, Conrad Steenkamp explained to VOA that “Our view is that the decision is quite reckless and reminiscent of the apartheid systemic subjugation of speakers of other languages, mainly black people. We believe that not just is it contravening our constitutional democracy as well as linguistic diversity, but it’s an ignorance of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.” 

But despite comments made by the South African government, Ryanair has still not responded with neither words nor action and continues its racially discriminatory practices. Steenkamp hopes that Ryanair will eventually recognize its fault and apologize: “Thus far Ryanair has not responded to us about our comments. We advised them to, one: immediately stop using the profiling; two: they need to start apologizing to people. People were turned back from flights as a result of this and they are in serious jeopardy, this could end up in court cases.”