Along with other organisations working on Latin America and seeking to host speakers from the region, the Peru Support Group has come up against the problem of people acquiring visas. The process is not just extremely slow but excessively expensive. It is not such as to encourage people to come to visit the UK, especially for short visits.
Last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised changes to the immigration control system, putting “people before passports”.
In a recent opinion piece for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Arkebe Oqubay, an Ethiopian minister, put forward a number of trenchant suggestions for reform of the visa system which, he argued, discriminated palpably against visitors to the UK from Africa.
We feel that his views need to be disseminated and there there should be a full and open debate over a visa system that is simply not fit for purpose.
He puts forward three suggestions:
- Visas should be made more easily available to potential visitors and at a lower price than is charged at the moment. The minimum validity period should be comparable to those extended under the Schengen agreement by EU member countries.
- Student visas should be facilitated since study in the UK is one of Britain’s more potent weapons for building influence abroad in future years.
- The UK should enter into bilateral agreements with countries on waiver systems, especially for holders of diplomatic passports.
He points to the need for a comprehensive review of visa arrangements which, according to a cross party study, are discriminatory and inconsistent in the way they operate and lack any mechanism for appeal.
We would welcome such moves that make the UK a more welcome destination for visitors from Peru.