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Opinions of Friday, 8 February 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Free Market Systematic UK Visa Discrimination

The motto of Ghana is freedom and justice. Ghanaians have a responsibility to themselves and to Africa. They are the most revered among Africans. If they continue to allow themselves to be treated with disrespect and discourtesy, it can only continue. Racism, disrespect and discourtesy all deny that we live in a Global Free Market Society, as we have been made to understand what a free market is.

Observing the visa section of the British High Commission in Ghana, one cannot but come to the conclusion that Visa Officers are operating a ‘discriminatory interview & refusal model’ that rests “on the pillars of immigration control’ and ‘systematic discrimination’ against Ghanaians. Race prejudice and discrimination on the basis of skin colour are not supposed to happen in a free market according to how Ghanaians understand it.

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The model, it appears, is designed to primarily determine reasons for the refusal of a visa, the refusal of the said visa and the forfeit of visa fees. It is worth noting that the assumption of entry to settle in the UK and such systematic discrimination has produced over the years anomalous and illogical reasons and decisions for visa refusals. Visa systems by definition deny the free operation of free markets and freedom of movement. Free market must surely be a fraud!

But one of UK’s most incredible concurrent reasons for refusing visas is that one lacks strong family, social or economic ties to Ghana and in the same breath citing the fact that the applicant does not know anybody in the UK. If this is not one of the most illogical reasons the free market gives for denying freedom of movement then one wonders what is. What is even worse is the fact that freedom of movement is a human right.

Why is the concurrent reason illogical? Because if any Ghanaian does not possess such ties as to make him or her return to his or her country of birth, how then can he or she stay in a foreign country where such ties, by all accounts, the British High Commission, believes and says, do not exist? Incredible! And it goes to show that the undercurrent of visa refusals in Ghana is rooted in covert illogical race prejudice and racist British Immigration Laws.

Some of the reasons given for visa refusals are even an affront to the African Personality. They portray the Ghanaian as someone who is stupid, ignorant and an object of contempt. There is enough reason from the compilation of visa refusal reasons to conclude that the British High Commission holds Africans in contempt and treats us as strangers even in our own country.

The very environment of the VISA HALL in Ghana is pervasive with Xeno-racism. In fact the entire visa application environment rests on offensive ‘repressive policing’ by security officers and diverse security constructs that treat Ghanaians as aliens, outsiders and strangers.

Ghanaians, who have lived in the UK and some of whom are now British Citizens, are shocked that the Government of Ghana allows such xenophobia on Ghanaian soil in the name of British security.

What are the xeno-racist aspects of the British High Commission that deny there is a free market in the way Ghanaians have been misled to understand the free market? One is the pervasive anti-human intimidation like one finds in UK Detention Centres or British Prisons. A second is undue repressive interference by security officers in the queuing system throwing their weight around (and, can you imagine, even ordering Applicants where to stand like British Police Officers notoriously on their blatant ‘stop and search’ missions against young black men). A third is denying freedom of movement in line with free markets unless you have a justifiable bank draft – visa fees, yes money! A fourth is failing to create an environment fit for human beings to just relax and feel really free; the inhuman silence in what is akin to a prison cell they call a visa hall is really deafening. A fifth is the uncivil prevention of human beings from leaving to get some water or food. A sixth is the sheer inhuman and general unfriendliness and pervasive preoccupation with enforcing rules and regulations. A seventh is the pervasive absence of human beings that are just ‘helpful’ and ‘courteous’. In short, if you like, there is simply no ‘free’ market customer care.

There is little evidence that the British High Commission in Ghana sees Ghanaian visa applicants as human beings. As if this is not enough, the repressive processes continue when you land at Heathrow Airport. The dehumanisation continues unabated. The Heathrow immigration officers forget to offer customer service that is human. Every black face is treated as a persona non grata in a long winding queue that defies market logic and decent customer service. They go through your travel documents not to be courteously helpful but to find reasons to detain you, deport you and while deporting you through their outsourced agencies add assault and monkey-calling insults on the least chance. This Free Market Society thing must surely be a fraud.