Ryanair is being accused of racism after having asked South African passengers to fill out a test form in Afrikaans to prove their nationality. The measure, the airline stated, was aimed at combating fraudulent 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 a company statement provided to CNN.
The wave of complaints started last month when 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 requirement of a test in Afrikaans for passengers of South African origin is being contested and called racist due to the fact that this language was forced under Apartheid and is predominantly spoken by white people. The move was taken after the South African government raised concerns about alleged identification fraud, claiming that criminals were manufacturing and selling fake South African passports.
The reason why Ryanair’s test is conducted in Afrikaans, rather than other languages, such as Zulu and Xhosa, which are respectively the first and second most used languages in the country is unknown. Many South African nationals do not speak Afrikaans.
Afrikaans is only one of South Africa’s 11 official languages and the third most widely spoken in the country. The test is also being criticized for containing questions that do not by themselves determine whether a person is actually a passport holder, such as which side of the road South Africans drive on or the country’s official currency.
An airline spokesman told the Financial Times that due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, they require “passengers traveling to the UK to complete a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans. If they fail to complete this questionnaire, they will be prevented from traveling and refunded in full.”
A South African passenger told the Financial Times that the Ryanair test “amounts to indirect racial discrimination.” Another user also claimed that Ryanair was “restricting the movement of South African people based on whether or not they speak the white minority language.” The UK High Commission in South Africa noted that the questionnaire is “not a UK Government requirement.”