UK accused of blocking South Africans at airports unless they pass Afrikaans test

Several South African passport holders who attempted to fly to and from the United Kingdom (UK) claim they had to pass a general knowledge quiz in Afrikaans before they could board their planes.

The frustrated travellers headed to Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to share their experiences.

MyBroadband spoke to a South African expat who said she and her 11-year-old son were denied their boarding passes from Ireland West Airport Knock to the UK two weeks ago.

She got three out of the 15 questions wrong.

They were returning from a visit to her daughter in the Republic of Ireland for a weekend. She had lived in the UK with her husband for two-and-a-half years.

When arriving at the check-in counter, she was given the test — in Afrikaans.

The border control official told her that the form had been put in place by the British government.

While she had a relatively solid understanding of the language, she still asked for the test in English.

She explained that South Africa had 11 official languages and that she was not fluent in Afrikaans.

The official could not provide her with a test in another language and told the expat to do her best.

The test questions are reproduced in the table below, in the left-hand column. MyBroadband’s English translations of the questions are on the right.

General knowledge test questions for UK entry
Original question English translation
Watter van die volgende is Suid-Afrikaanse hoofstede? (Keuses: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein) Which of the following are South African capital cities? (Options: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein)
Wat is Suid-Afrika se amptelike geldeenheid? What is South Africa’s official currency?
Noem drie van Suid-Afrika se amptelike tale. Name three of South Africa’s official languages.
Aan watter kant van die pad moet ‘n mens bestuur in Suid-Afrika? On which side of the road must you drive in South Africa?
Wat is Suid-Afrika se internasionale landkode? What is South Africa’s international dialling code?
Wat is die naam van die grootste stad in Suid-Afrika? What is the name of South Africa’s biggest city?
Wie is die huidige president van Suid-Afrika? Who is the current president of South Africa?
Noem een van Suid-Afrika se nasionale vakansiedae. Name one of South Africa’s national public holidays.
Wat is die naam van die hoogste berg in Suid-Afrika? What is the name of the highest mountain in South Africa?
Wat is die naam van die bekende berg in Kaapstad wat sommige glo is een van die oudste berge in die wêreld? What is the name of the famous mountain in Cape Town that some believe is one of the oldest in the world?
Wat is Suid-Afrika se nasionale blom? What is South Africa’s national flower?
Wat is Suid-Afrika se nasionale dier? What is South Africa’s national animal?
Waar is die Uniegebou? Where are the Union Buildings?
Wat is Suid-Afrika se nasionale kleure? What are South Africa’s national colours?
Watter een van die volgende is ‘n bekende Suid-Afrikaanse rivier? Which of the following is a famous South African river?

MyBroadband has seen several photos online from different posters that appear to show varying copies of the test.

The expat said she saw no official stamps or branding on the questionnaire to indicate it was an official document. She also did not have to write down her passport or personal details.

She suspected her test was scanned and sent somewhere for verification.

Despite providing the officials with her and her sons’ biometric residence permits (BRPs), she was forced to leave the airport and return to her daughter after not getting full marks on the test.

She contacted her immigration consultant, who confirmed she had wrongly been refused the right to board as their visas and passports were valid.

Her husband then flew to Dublin to fetch them, and they managed to leave via Dublin Airport.

She suspected they managed to get through on the second attempt due to her husband’s British passport.

She described the experience as “terrible” and said it felt like she had been discriminated against.

Several other members of the South Africans living in London Facebook group complained about similar experiences.

One said they received the form while travelling from the UK to Dublin.

Another expat living in Dublin said an official told her if she could not complete the test in Afrikaans, it proved she was not South African.

Another South African working in the UK told SAfm that several of her colleagues with UK work permits were also presented with the form.

She said a friend flying from Ibiza airport to London was handed the test.

Many of the complaints seemed to be coming from travellers who had flights booked with Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair.

The British High Commission in South Africa said in a post on Twitter that the questionnaire was not a UK government requirement.

MyBroadband reached out to the British High Commission in South Africa, the Embassy for Ireland in South Africa, and Ryanair for comment on the test, but did not receive feedback by the time of publication.

We also contacted the Irish foreign affairs department, the South African High Commission in London, and the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation. None answered their phones or responded to text messages and email.

A South Africans in London group member claimed a forensic investigator who dealt with Home Affairs issues had told her the form was related to an influx of people carrying fraudulent South African passports entering Europe.

Independent crime and policing analyst Professor Johan Burger recently told The Sunday Times that the South African passport risked being devalued further as international crime syndicates were increasingly using it for illegal activities.


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UK accused of blocking South Africans at airports unless they pass Afrikaans test