Posted - 12 Dec 2013 : 14:38:00
Director, UK border Agency in West Africa, Nick Crouch Visits the Gambia
By Sainey Darboe
Foroyaa: Published on Wednesday, 11 December 2013
The Director of UK border Agency in West Africa based in Ghana, Nick Crouch, made a brief visit to The Gambia. Mr Crouch said in the interview that Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth has no impact upon Gambian Nationals applying for visa. The Diplomat anchor Sainey Darboe began by asking him why over the past 20 years the problem for Gambians getting visas to travel to the UK has become extremely difficult.
Nick Crouch: The UK is open for business to the brightest and best migrants and we want to ensure we remain an attractive destination for global talent. It is important that the UK Government strikes the right balance between maintaining secure and effective border controls and ensuring the visa system does not inhibit the UK’s ability tocontinue to attract those businesses, migrants and visitors who most benefit the UK.
Each application is assessed on its merits, so if someone meets the immigration rules, they will be granted a visa. Furthermore, Gambians can still apply at the British Embassy in The Gambia.
Darboe: It seems that the cards are stacked against anyone who cannot read or write or cannot access a computer but wants to visit family in UK. Is this fair?
Nick Crouch: Again, each case is assessed on its merits. If someone can demonstrate that they meet the qualifying criteria, they will normally be issued a visa.
Darboe: But the system is extremely complex to the lay person, you almost have to have a University degree to understand how to jump through all the hurdles associated with getting a visa and this also can incur considerable cost. What advice would you give to the ordinary Gambian who wants to visit family or friends in UK?
Nick Crouch: UKBA makes a considerable effort to make the application process as clear as possible for applicants, whilst ensuring that it gets all the information required. All the details are on the website ( www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration ), which is informative and hopefully easy to navigate! Overall, my advice would be to read the qualifying criteria for the visa you intend applying for – if you don’t think you meet the rules, it’s likely you will be refused.
So be as sure as you can be before paying the money to apply!
Darboe: My community of Gunjur has had a link with Marlborough in UK for the past 30 years. It has been based on the exchange of people (now approximately 1500 people between the two communities). It is about cultural exchange learning from each other. It was easy to get visas for two elders to visit Marlborough but for younger people who can really gain from that experience it is almost impossible and there is a real risk that the reciprocal arrangements we have always had will die. What advice would you give?
Nick Crouch: Again, the important point here is that each visa application is assessed on its merits. And that means it is assessed according to the UK’s immigration rules. For instance, as the website clearly states, to qualify for a visa an applicant must be able to demonstrate that, for instance: they intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit; they have enough money to support and accommodate themselves without working or help from public funds (or they and any dependants will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends); and that they can meet the cost of the return or onward journey. If applicants meet those (and the other) criteria, they will normally be granted a visa. If not, their application will be refused.
Darboe: Is there some ways that organisations involved in this kind of long term cultural exchange could be kite marked as reputable and therefore given special treatment?
Nick Crouch: The application is not about an organisation, it’s about an individual. That said, UKBA recognises the sort of issue you mention and has a variety of “trusted sponsor” schemes available, for instance on educational establishments. More details are on the website. But it’s important to note that this does not guarantee entry – the application is still for the individual and if they don’t meet the qualifying criteria, they will be refused.
Darboe: How many illegal immigrants are there living in the UK and what is the UK Borders Agency doing about them?
Nick Crouch: Illegal immigration puts undue pressure on public services, local communities and legitimate businesses. We are making it harder for people to enter the UK illegally and to live and work there illegally. Biometric information is submitted as part of the visa application process, so that we can more easily prove the identity of ‘overstayers’, rapidly re-document and remove them.
Enforcement and removals also play a key role in our reform of the immigration system. The message is clear – if you’re not legal you’re not welcome. Those who are in the UK illegally should leave voluntarily and we will assist them in doing so. Where they refuse, we have no choice but to enforce their departure.
Darboe: Does The Gambia's withdrawal from the Commonwealth have any implications/changes for Gambian visa applicants to Great Britain?
Nick Crouch: The Gambian withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations has no impact upon Gambian Nationals applying for UK visas. The process remains the same and the change from a British High Commission to a British Embassy does not affect visa applications.
As before all visa applications are based on their merit in line with UK visa immigration laws and rules.
A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone