On the afternoon of the 8th June the UK Parliament had a Westminster Hall debate on UK visas for those invited to the UK from sub-Saharan Africa, with Scottish MPs calling for improvements in the handling of UK visa applications for those invited from Malawi.
The Scotland Malawi Partnership, a civic network of more than 900 Scottish organisations with Malawi links, reports that its members have increasingly been facing delays and difficulties securing visas when they invite their partners to Scotland.
Scotland has a longstanding special friendship with Malawi dating back to Dr David Livingstone more than 150 years ago. The University of Edinburgh estimates that more than 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians are engaged in civic partnerships together, across schools, churches, hospitals, universities and community groups.
Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, called the Westminster Hall debate and spoke passionately about the considerable frustrations Scottish organisations have had in securing UK visas for their Malawian partners invited to the UK for short-term visits.
Grady MP is a longstanding friend of Malawi having previously lived in Mzuzu before becoming an MP last year, where he still has many Malawian friends. He knows first-hand the challenges of getting UK visas for those invited from countries like Malawi, having previously worked for SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Development agency, which has a number of projects across Malawi.
David Hope-Jones, Principal Officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, said:“We are delighted to have watched the excellent debate this afternoon in which MPs spoke passionately about the friendship between Scotland and Malawi, and highlighted some of the difficulties Scots have experienced of late trying to secure UK visas for their Malawian partners invited into the UK.
“The visa application system can be slow and hard for our friends in Malawi to complete, meaning more and more visits by Malawians to Scotland have had to be cancelled. We welcome the debate today and commend the UK Parliament and the UK Government for being alert and responsive to our members’ concerns. We look forward to continuing the constructive discussions.”
Prior to the debate, David Hope-Jones and Patrick Grady MP met with Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Minister of State for Immigration, to discuss theissues faced by members of the Scotland Malawi Partnership as they seek UK visas for their Malawian partners.
During the debate Patrick Grady MP spoke about Scotland’s civic links with Malawi and why short-term reciprocal visits are so important in such apeople-to-people relationship. He said:
“Visa barriers or refusals do not just damage the particular relationship between the individual visitor and the sponsoring organisation. They send a signal about the kind of welcome this country and Government want to offer.”
In the debate Patrick Grady joked: “I was pleased to hear recently that license has been granted for the import of one of Malawi’s most famous products – Malawi Gin. I hope that when it comes to organising formal launch events for the product in the UK it will be possible not only for the product but for the people who make it to be able to arrive here safely. I will endeavour to secure a sample for the Minister, and perhaps while he is enjoying an ‘MGT’ as many of us who have been expats in Malawi have done in the past, he can reflect on some of the points I’ve raised in this debate.”
Fellow Scottish MP, Margaret Ferrier joined the debate to highlight the issues around having a cashless system for visa applications in a country like Malawi.
Jeremy Lefroy MP spoke about his failed attempts to secure visas for those he has invited from Tanzania.
Helen Grant MP spoke about how useful it has been for the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee to have international visitors feed into their inquiries in person in the UK, for which an effective visa system is required.
Representing the UK Government, James Brokenshire MP said he was aware of strong relationship between Scotland and Malawi, and was happy to receive further information and case studies relating to visa issues experienced by members of the Scotland Malawi Partnership.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :