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Green MSP slams Ryanair over ‘racist’ questionnaire and urges Michael O’Leary to ditch them

Maggie Chapman has written to the budget airlines CEO Michael O’Leary after it emerged that South Africans travelling on flights to the UK to prove their nationality by taking a test in the Afrikaans language.

A Scottish Green MSP has urged Ryanair to scrap a “racist” questionnaire used for South Africans coming to the United Kingdom.

Maggie Chapman has written to the budget airlines CEO Michael O’Leary after it emerged that South Africans travelling on flights to the UK to prove their nationality by taking a test in the Afrikaans language.

Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman has written to Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary (Image: PA)

The North east MSP said the practice needs to “stop immediately”.

It comes after the House of Lords heard that Ryanair should face regulatory action after using an “ignorant, insulting and discriminatory” test.

The move has triggered outrage, as there are 11 official languages in South Africa, and the enforcement of Akfrikaans is associated with Apartheid.

Chapman said: “The use of this questionnaire is racist and historically ignorant.

“It needs to stop immediately. I am shocked that Ryanair thinks it is acceptable to use it.

“Afrikaans is a language that was imposed during the apartheid era of white-minority rule. The choice to use it is deeply offensive and undermines anti-racist and anti-discrimination work.

“I have written to Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, urging him to do the right thing by immediately ending this ignorant and racist policy.

“No company should be using these disgraceful questionnaires, or any others that can be stressful and traumatic for people who have faced persecution because of the colour of their skin or the languages they do and do not speak.”

During a session in the Lords, Baroness Chakrabarti, former director of Liberty and former Labour Shadow Attorney General, told peers: “Using Akfrikaans to verify citizenship is as ignorant as it is insulting and discriminatory.”

She asked the Government to “explore all potential regulatory options to persuade Ryanair to the cause of common sense and decency.”

Ryanair has said it has to carry out the extra test because of increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK, and that airlines found to have taken a passenger to the UK with a fake passport face a fine of £2,000.

However, transport minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said it was not UK policy to demand a language test.

She agreed that Ryanair’s actions were “morally dubious and surely not appropriate”.

She said that the Government had been in touch with Ryanair but received no response, and that the Civil Aviation Authority had also been in contact with the airline to investigate the matter.

A Ryanair spokesperson said: “The South African government has already warned passengers (and airlines) of the risk of syndicates selling fake South African passports, which has substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK.

“In order to minimise 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.

“Airlines operating to the UK face Home Office fines of £2000 per passenger for anyone who travel illegally to the UK on a fraudulent passport/visa. This is why Ryanair must ensure that all passengers (especially South African citizens) travel on a valid South African passport/visa as required by UK immigration.”

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