The British coalition government has a painted a rosy picture on the way its Home Office has been handling visas for Malawi visitors to UK after mounting pressure from members of parliament who criticised the “disproportionate” application regime.
MPs in Westminsteraccused the British government of discriminating against visitors from Malawi who want to come to the UK.
They warn a new visa system has created a series of often insurmountable barriers to travel.
But Minister of State (Home Office, Security and Immigration) James Brokenshire told House of Commons that “Of the 2,160 visa applications received from Malawian nationals in 2013, 86% were successful.”
He said that is “an important figure to highlight” given the criticism about the number of refused applications.
The Minister said the grant rate for Malawi application is higher than it was four years ago.
Tom Greatrex, the Labour MP who represents Blantyre in Scotland, David Livingstone’s birthplace, led a debate on the issue in the Commons and said the current visa rules – brought in at the end of last year – for impoverished Malawi are a mess.
“It effectively limits access to the UK to Malawi’s wealthiest and most well-connected citizens; aid workers, charity representatives and church delegates are being left behind even when sponsors are covering all of the costs of their visits,” he said.
Malawi applicants are required to fill out a 15-page form, a separate online form, have that document counter-signed by their UK sponsor, send their passport for inspection and pay using a cashless system.
The MP and other critics are particularly critical of the final element, warning it is unrealistic in a country like Malawi.
“Members will be aware of the work of Mary’s Meals, which feeds many people in Malawi and across poorer parts of Africa. The head of programmes for Mary’s Meals in Malawi, which currently feeds 690,000 children, was refused a visa on the grounds that he was likely to abscond, despite letters from the charity’s UK chief operating officer, as well as the country director, providing reassurances about the work that the individual was undertaking,” MP Greatrex told the Commons, according to the Hansard assessed by Nyasa Times.
Greatex who is co-chair of the all-party group on Zambia and Malawi pointed out that many Malawians do not have an internationally recognised credit or bank card.
“I wonder whether the Home Office took that into account when deciding how the system would work. Has any consideration been made of how much industry intermediaries make each year through charging to make electronic transfers? Are there any concerns about the quality of those transactions and the potential for fraud in the visa application process? We are told that the solution is for the UK sponsor to pay the fees, but that rarely works,” he added.
Asked about the issue by former Scottish First Minister Lord McConnell in a House of Lords debate, Baroness Northover denied that poorly paid people were discriminated against.
Minister of State told the Commons that the visa grant rate for Malawi doesn’t suggests a worsening picture, “but it would seem that the grant rate is higher than it was four years ago. The number of applications that we receive from Malawi is comparatively small.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :