From the news desk

‘ISIS teen not required to disclose minor status’

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Comair says aviation industry regulation stipulated by the trade association of the world’s airlines, International Air Transport Association (IATA) only requires passengers below the age of 12 to be identified as unaccompanied minors.

This follows an incident where a 15-year-old girl was taken off a British Airways flight in Cape Town on Sunday, after her relative’s contacted authorities reporting her disappearance from her parent’s home.

The teenage girl was said to be attempting to leave the country in order to join the radical group ISIS.

Comair told Traveller24 in an emailed statement that while it was unable to disclose the nature or details of the booking that led to the incident, it is bound by extensive IATA regulations relating to safety, security, licensing and consumer protection for the aviation industry.

IATA’s rules only require passengers below the age of 12 to be identified as unaccompanied minors.

Susan van der Ryst, Comair Corporate Communications Manager, said the airline did however encourage young passengers between the age of 12 and 18 years who were travelling alone – and their parents and/or guardians – to indicate their age when making a booking in order to identify them as a ‘young passenger’.

“All children travelling alone aged 5-years up to their 12th birthday on a single sector flight, and 6-years and up to their 12th birthday on a multi-sector flight are treated as passengers with special needs and should be booked as unaccompanied minors,” said Van der Ryst.

“An unaccompanied minor will be denied check-in and boarding a Comair flight, should he/she arrive at the airport without the company of his/her parents/guardians as indicated in the booking.

“All unaccompanied minors will be accompanied by a Comair representative throughout their journey and at each handover point, the relevant paperwork will be completed in support of the process,” said Van der Ryst.

According to the statement, the contact details of the person seeing a ‘young passenger’ off at the departure airport and the person meeting the ‘young passenger’ at the arrival airport will be tracked and documented; but what happens if the ‘young passengers’ status is not disclosed?

The department of home affairs has since released a statement saying the incident has brought to the forefront the need for South Africa’s new unabridged birth certificate rule.

According to the Department of Home Affair’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete, the rule which requires an unabridged birth certificate, detailing particulars for both the mother and father, to be supplied by the parents for all children travelling through, into and out of South Africa would ensure situations like this are avoided in future.

“We deal with instances of unaccompanied minors, where children travel with an aunt or uncle without their parents’ consent all the time, only to have one non-consenting parent hold the department accountable asking, “Why did you let my child leave the country?” said Tshwete.

“This only serves to highlight the importance of the unabridged birth certificate ruling, since the department of home affairs has a responsibility, as a signatory member of the UN Child Protection convention, to close all loopholes and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

Tshwete confirmed that the department of home affairs was in consultation with the department of tourism as well as other key tourism stakeholders such as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa to address the effects of the country’s news visa and immigration rules.

“The expert panel will be meeting later in April but as it stands the unabridged birth certificate is set to come into effect on 1 June, as previously stipulated.” News24

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