Ryanair forces South Africans to take Afrikaans tests

Dinesh Joseph, the Afrikaans test, Catherine Bronze with her son. RyanAir confirmed it is getting South Africans to test in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

South Africans said they were made to feel they were “doing something wrong” (Images: Dinesh Joseph/Catherine Bronze)

South Africans have said that having to take tests in Afrikaans to verify their passports is “discrimination”.

Several South Africans have recently had to answer general knowledge questions in Afrikaans in order to enter the UK or Ireland, although this is not officially enforced by any country.

The seemingly new policy is Ryanair’s attempt to tackle a “high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports,” the airline told

It comes after government officials were arrested for allegedly conducting an illegal operation to sell fake passports for £258 (R5,000).

Afrikaans is just one of the country’s 11 official languages ​​and is spoken by around 14% of the population on a daily basis.

Dinesh Joseph, 45, who speaks English, told the test felt like “profiling and discrimination”.

His flight from Gatwick to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on May 18 went smoothly, but he encountered problems when trying to return home to north-west London on May 22.

He said he was told “that’s your language” when he asked for a form in English.

Page one of the RyanAir Afrikaans test. RyanAir confirmed it is getting South Africans to test in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

The test included questions about the country’s capital, its currency and its president (Images: Dinesh Joseph)

Page 2 of Ryanair's Afrikaans test. Ryanair confirmed South Africans are testing in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

Ryanair staff reportedly insisted South Africans could only take the test in Afrikaans (Images: Dinesh Joseph)

Dinesh Joseph smiles. RyanAir confirmed it is getting South Africans to test in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

Dinesh said he was upset after having to take the test despite being “a laid back guy” (Image: Dinesh Joseph)

Dinesh eventually used Google Translate to complete the test and he managed to make his flight but said it was “a horrible experience”.

Some weren’t so lucky, including Catherine Bronze, 49, and her 11-year-old son Kolby, who were not allowed to board their flight to return to their home in Essex.

Catherine was given the same Afrikaans test when she arrived at the Ryanair check-in desk at West Knock Airport in Ireland on May 22nd.

She stated she didn’t speak Afrikaans but was reportedly told to “do her best”.

When the English-speaking mother answered a few questions incorrectly, she and Kolby were denied boarding passes.

Catherine Bronze and her son. RyanAir confirmed it is getting South Africans to test in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

Catherine Bronze was stuck with her son in Ireland for an extra two days (Image: Catherine Bronze)

They were only able to get home without a test after Catherine’s husband, who has a British passport, picked up his family and traveled with them from Dublin Airport two days later.

Catherine, who is “a nervous traveler at the best of times”, said: “It was the first time I felt I was being discriminated against for something beyond my control – because it was immediately assumed my passport was fake.

“I know it sounds ridiculous but it actually felt traumatic, everyone was looking at me and I was crying a lot.”

Similarly, Petronia Reddy, 36, has been told she cannot fly from Stansted Airport to Dublin to spend the bank holiday weekend with her girlfriend – because she got some “basic questions wrong” on the test.

Petronia also told Ryanair staff that she does not speak Afrikaans, but claims she was told: “The test is only available in Afrikaans and if you cannot provide the answers, it proves you are not South African.”

She tried her best but could not understand all the questions and was not allowed to board the plane on Wednesday.

Petronia held her own and eventually convinced a supervisor to let her onto the next scheduled flight as she had missed her original flight by that time.

South African passport. RyanAir confirmed it is getting South Africans to test in Afrikaans to board flights in the UK and Europe.

There has been a rise in fake South African passports (Image: Getty)

However, Patronia stressed that the issue is not just about the inconvenience, but also about the “trauma that Afrikaans brings to many South Africans” due to its role in the country’s racist apartheid history.

One of the biggest anti-apartheid catalysts was the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1974 – when young people protested, among other things, a new rule forcing colored students to take classes and exams in Afrikaans.

Patronia said: “I got very emotional about our story. As a brown person, these things happen more often than they should.”

Patronia’s Xhosa-speaking friend, who asked not to be named, said she was “appalled and shocked like a black woman from South Africa” ​​when she was forced to take Ryanair’s Afrikaans test.

Both the UK and Irish governments have confirmed to that the test is not part of their border policy.

Ireland’s Foreign Office said: “South African citizens are not required to take a test in Afrikaans before boarding a flight to or from Ireland.”

Ryanair said in a statement: “Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, we require passengers traveling to the UK to complete a simple questionnaire, which is issued in Afrikaans.

“If they fail to complete this questionnaire, they will be denied travel and given a full refund.”

The airline did not respond to further questions.

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Justin Scacco

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