Members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the UK Parliament have called for a fit for purpose visa applications to the UK by Malawians and asked their government to remove the current “disproportionate” red tape .
According to the House of Lords Hansard accessed by Nyasa Times, Lord Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale, who is former Scotland First Minister and has visited Malawi many times asked London to remove “shambles” surrounding the UK visa system for those in Malawi.
“The system is dysfunctional, it is certainly disproportionate and it is, in my view, deeply damaging,” he said.
The peer said: “From the 15-page application form that people have to fill in to the posting of passports to countries far away, which then have to be returned on time but regularly are not, to the proof of wealth that is required as evidence to secure a visa to come to this country, to the cashless system that encourages sharks to charge a fee to use their credit cards, as people pay them cash.”
McConnel said the visa system denies many Malawians from going to the UK “to contribute to debates and discussions” even when their host was a reputable UK or Scottish organisation or a government body.
He asked the British government to “ clear up this chaos and improve the system “in the short-term then investigate how the system could contribute to the good relations between Malawi and the UK.
In Malawi, the UK visa application centre is run by a private company, Teleperformance Ltd, and subscontracted to FedEx. Malawians have been paying 59 pounds (about K42 000) in addition to the visa application fee which varies according to the type of visa being sought.
Lord David Steel of Aikwood, who has great connection to Malawi, said the process is “a bureaucratic nightmare” and said the service is “extremely expensive for Malawi citizens and it is very time-consuming.”
He said the idea that visa applications are rejected because people might overstay or give up their careers, families and everything else in Malawi to stay in Britain is “simply ludicrous.”
Said Lord Steel: “ Another suggestion is that we might change the visa system to insist that sponsors for short-term visits should themselves sign declarations accepting responsibility for the person returning and being liable to a fine if the person does not return. That might cut through a lot of the bureaucracy and establish a visa regime that is fit for purpose.”
Peers debated on what the British government can do to support economic and social development in Malawi, led by McConnell.
Lord McConnell said Malawi has been a “good friend to the UK and to Scotland especially” ever since the days of Dr David Livingstone and his missions in Africa.
He called on the British government to continue to help Malawians “to help themselves”, in the “same spirit” as Dr Livingstone.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :