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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Columnist: Mubarak, Ras

Government must intervene in racist UK visa bonds.

The UK for a very long time has been judging people seeking to come to Britain on the size of their wallet rather than the merit of their application. The new proposal to CHARGE visitors from six Asian and African countries is not new at all.

There was a plan as far back as 1999 to force certain visitors from Africa and Asia entering Britain to hand over three thousand pounds sterling.

By July 2000, the proposals had been dropped. The then Labor Government decided not to press ahead with a returnable deposit scheme which would have forced visitors from countries such as Ghana entering the UK to hand over 3000 UK pounds sterling.

The Foreign Office Minister then, - Keith Vaz – confirmed to the BBC on 29th July 2000 that ‘’the plan had been dropped for good.’’

The then Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman – Simon Hughes – told the BBC that ‘’the idea of bonds as surety for visitors from some countries was clearly discriminatory.’’ Adding, ‘’when will the government learn that what we need are sensible policies, not tough-sounding, but half-baked ideas?’’

Looking at the scale of economic difficulty facing Britain, and the failed campaign promises of the coalition government, coupled with Conservative party defeat in council elections, it is not so surprising that the issue of bonding African and Asian visitors has come up.

It is a fact that thousands of Ghanaians visit the UK yearly. It is also fact that several overstay their visa. In the face of such draconian and clearly racist visa scheme, what can the Ghanaian Government do for its citizens who may wish to travel to the UK?

As tough-sounding and half-baked as the scheme is, our government must engage Britain. Perhaps a little breakfast meeting between our Foreign Minister and the UK Ambassador to Ghana would be a nice start.

Behind closed doors, Ghana must push for a better treatment. Just like Nigeria, India, Pakistan and other nations targeted in this new immigration scheme, Ghana and the UK go way back.

Our country and the UK have a long and enduring relationship. From the bitter days of colonial injustice through to the 21st century, Ghana has looked to the UK as a model for our development and many of our national figures including Philip Quarcoo who became the first African to be ordained priest in the Church of England in 1769, Presidents Kwame Nkrumah, Professor Atta Mills, Hilla Limann and J.A.Kufour, and a host of others Ghanaians in Business, Military, Academia and private life have all been trained in Britain.

It is also a matter of public record that Ghanaians have contributed immensely to the human resource base of the UK. We gave the UK its first Black Cabinet minister – The Rt. Hon. Paul Boateng and The Rt. Hon. Lord Ribieiro who’s a former President of the Royal College of Surgeons (2005 – 2008) and a winner of the World’s most coveted Witch Doctor Red Apple Award. He was appointed a Life Peer in 2010.

It is now common practice to see countries lobbying for humane visa treatment for their nationals. (See NY York Times story of 11th May 2013 under the headline ‘’some countries Lobby for More in Race for Visas.’’

The Ghanaian government must seek the help of Lord Ribeiro (who was born in Achimota), Rt. Hon. Paul Boateng, H.E. Kofi Annan and others to help secure Ghana’s exclusion from the so-called list of ‘’High Risk’’ countries.

The President must appeal directly to the UK Prime Minister and the Home Office for special treatment of Ghanaians. If there’s any country in the commonwealth whose nationals must be permitted to the UK for visits, study, business or other legitimate reasons without any of the draconian requirements, it is Ghana.

Our country has paid her dues and it is for this reason that our government must make a special appeal to the UK government on behalf of Ghanaians.

Ghana has been providing a lead role in African security and opening up our markets for British manufacturers. Britain needs the support of Ghana in combating drugs coming from West Africa; in providing support for conflict prevention and peace keeping efforts within the continent; and in curbing the so-called ‘’tax havens.’’

As per the current visa requirements and the proposed three thousand pounds bond for visitors, it becomes difficult for genuine applicants including potential Paul Boatengs, Hilla Limanns and Nkrumahs.

Ras Mubarak Columnist, 2012 NDC Parliamentary Candidate for Ablekuma North Constituency