Ryanair has been urged to scrap a "deeply offensive" and "discriminatory" test being used on South Africans flying to the UK. 

The budget airline has brought in a new policy which has required South Africans to prove their nationality by taking a test in Afrikaans. 

With 11 official languages used in the African nation, the move has sparked outrage - with many politicians pointing out the historical enforcement of Afrikaans which is associated with the apartheid regime.

Ryanair has said it introduced the tests amid an increase in fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK. Airlines found to have taken a passenger to the UK with a fake passport face a £2000 fine. 

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman has written to the airline's chief executive Michael O'Leary demanding Ryanair removes the "disgraceful" test. 

She said: "It is offensive and historically, hugely ignorant for Ryanair to be doing this. 

"There is no legal requirement for them to do this and for a private company to be using such racist and discriminatory practices is really unacceptable." 

In her letter to the chief executive, the MSP added: "Afrikaans is a language that was imposed during the apartheid era of white-minority rule.

"The choice to use it is deeply offensive, historically ignorant, and undermines anti-racist and anti-discrimination work.

"I urge you to reconsider your position and immediately end the use of all questionnaires and the use of Afrikaans in Ryanair communications."

The House of Lords heard that the budget airline should face regulatory action in the UK for the use of the "discrimantoy" test. 

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.”

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.

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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 £2,000 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.”