African are more than twice as likely to be denied a UK visa than applicants from any other part of the world, a new study shows.
According to the study by All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) for Africa, the UK visa system is not currently fit for purpose, is inaccessible to many Africans, under resourced, unaccountable and widely perceived as biased or even discriminating against Africans.
“The UK has good relations with most African countries, but it needs to be recognised that no single issue does more damage to the image or influence of the UK in Africa than this visa question,” noted the report.
Among the key issues identified as barriers to the UK visa issuance to Africans include use of a centralised application system that requires many African applicants to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles simply to apply for a visa.
The research team led by Chinyelu Susan Onwurah, a British Labour Party politician, noted presence of weak quality control and lack of oversight leading to erroneous, careless and sometimes offensive decisions. There was also perceived lack of procedural fairness against Africans.
“In many cases additional documentation and evidence is requested over and above that specified in the guidelines, but even then some decisions seem to be arbitrary and illogical,” the team noted.
Financial discrimination in decision-making was also identified as another problem, with many applications being rejected because the applicant has little money, even though all costs have been guaranteed by a sponsoring third party.
Above all, there was no right of appeal, requiring expensive re-application to correct a mistaken decision.
“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. As well as our relations, it damages our economy and society. It is embarrassing, patronising and insulting to African applicants and leaves the slogan of “Global Britain” empty and meaningless,” noted Ms Onwurah, who is the MP for Newcastle.
The team wants UK to review its visa issuance rules in a bid to ease access for African applicants to salvage British business, academia, arts and culture which are said to have been hard hit by the ‘bias’.
Read the report here.