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Opinions of Friday, 16 May 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Re: Statement by British High Commission

In the General News of Saturday, 9 February 2008, a Statement by the British High Commission said amongst other things the following:

?We have noted the opinion piece of Kwami Agbodza in a feature article posted on 8 February. The allegations of systematic race prejudice and discrimination in the Visa Section of the British High Commission, Accra are not true.

We treat all applications to travel to the UK on their merits, and take decisions on the basis of an objective assessment of whether the individual meets the criteria set out in the Immigration Rules. Race is never a factor.

We are committed to treating all our customers with respect, courtesy and dignity and have high standards of service delivery.?

Under normal circumstances I would not have replied. But I have to reply to this classic British denial for three reasons:

First, It is true there is systematic race prejudice and discrimination in the Visa Section of the British High Commission, Accra. The Immigration rules that form the basis for the work of the Visa Section are UK?s racist immigration laws. This is fact. The UK Department of State that deals with immigration is empowered under UK law to discriminate on account of race.

Second, it is false on the part of the British High Commission to state that race is never a factor when taking decisions on applications to travel to the UK. Race is the only factor. The strategic goal of the visa application system is to make money while denying Ghanaians entry to the UK on grounds of race and race alone. All other reasons are calculated to hide this fact.

Third it is not true that the British High Commission and the entire Immigration Service at Heathrow Airport are ever committed to treating us as customers with respect, courtesy and dignity.

The inhuman treatment of Ama Sumani is only the tip of the iceberg. She is only one of the many women who are put in removal centres before they are deported. They suffer racist attacks and violence from cruel and brutal immigration guards and officers in the run-up to and during removal. This again is fact.

Yarl's Wood Removal Centre, is one of the removal centres in which human beings like Ama Sumani face appalling conditions and grave injustices in detention, for long periods, even as detained victims of torture and rape; and beaten even if pregnant.

The low standards of service delivery include the fact that women like Ama Sumani are allowed only 24 hours to present their claim for asylum; their appeal hearings and removals are imposed without notification; their bail is refused even if they have "families with citizenship".

They lack interpreters where their English is not proficient and their interpreters are never available when needed, even during asylum interviews; their lawyers demand money despite women having no money to pay and despite these lawyers being listed as legal aid solicitors.

The low standards of legal service delivery has ensured that there are few or no lawyers available to represent women and those that do, often provide incompetent, lazy, negligent or even corrupt services. Such is the plight of the Ama Sumanis.

Those who would like to verify these facts should please contact Legal Action for Women or Black Women's Rape Action Project in the UK on 0044-207-482-2496.

As I pointed out earlier in an article on this matter, the purpose of immigration officers, when you land at Heathrow Airport, far from providing you with excellent customer service, is rather ever to find the most flimsy reason to detain, take one to a removal centre and deport. This constitutes their highest standards of service delivery.

We are never treated with respect; we are never treated with courtesy; we are never treated with dignity. After all the visa fees we are charged, they neither provide us with drinking water in the Ghana Visa Hall nor do they allow us as human beings to get our own.

These inhuman treatments can never be acceptable under any description of customer service protocol. Ama Sumani was wickedly taken from her sick bed knowing very well that she will die. This is the respect, courtesy, dignity and high standards of service delivery that the British High Commission is referring to.

And when we raise these matters, they, including the immigration guards and officers, tell us to go back to Ghana while they messily do not want to leave our continent alone to develop united and progressively in self-determination.



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