‘UK immigration system discriminates Africans’

18Jul 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
‘UK immigration system discriminates Africans’

AFRICANS are twice as likely to be refused UK visas than applicants from any other part of the world, a report unveiled yesterday by the country’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) shows.

The study said the UK immigration system is "biased or even discriminating" against Africans and is "not currently fit for purpose."

“The UK has good relations with most African countries, but it needs to be recognised that no single issue does more potential damage to the image or influence of the UK in Africa than this visa question,” reads the report.

“The fact that refusals for applicants from Africa in 2018 were running at more than double the global average suggests that something is amiss. The situation needs to be addressed.”

It presents multiple challenges, including the need to travel long distances to apply for a visa, financial discrimination and no right of appeal, the report said.

“At a time when the UK needs to be ‘open for business,’ the broken visas system is doing severe damage to UK-Africa relations across a variety of sectors," said Chi Onwurah MP, Chair of the APPG for Africa.

"It is embarrassing, patronising and insulting to African applicants and leaves the slogan of 'Global Britain' empty and meaningless," she declared.

The group said it had undertaken to coordinate the gathering of as much hard evidence on this issue as possible and particularly in cases where visas appear to have been unjustifiably refused, to the detriment not only of the individual concerned but to British national interests.

To that end it invited submissions and held a well-attended hearing in January 2019, the outcome of which has been discussed in detail by the Group with the Minister for Immigration.

It came up with a number of recommendations to ease things, including expedited application processes for those applicants who currently have to travel to a neighbouring country to apply and/or be interviewed for a visa (low cost).

Other recommendations include clearer information to visa applicants on visa application processes and requirements, especially in terms of supporting documents that must be submitted by the applicant, a low cost matter.

Where decision-making is fully digitized, the processing system has to ensure documents are scanned in the country of application, a medium cost requirement, the report noted.

And in order to improve decision-making, the group advised greater quality control of rejection letters before they are issued, in particular to ensure the supporting evidence has been fully taken into account and that the guidelines for clearance officers are changed.

This will ensure that the reasons for refusal cannot be based on prejudicial or biased assumptions, a medium or low cost demand, it said.

Where there is clear and compelling evidence that a visit is fully-funded by a credible UK-based sponsor, there is need to remove the requirement for the applicant to submit bank statements and prove affluence.

Alternatively, the processing agency may publish the evidence-base establishing the causal link between poverty and overstaying, a cost neutral requirement.

“High Commissions and Embassies should be allowed greater input to the decision-making processes as a matter of course. Streamlined processes should be explored to speed up and simplify the process for VIPs, a low cost need,” it added.