The Home Office’s hostile handling of visiting African professionals doesn’t bode well for Global Britain
Thu 18 Jul 2019
An African passport is the most egalitarian of documents, in that if you have one then class, employment status and professional invitations from the country you are visiting all count for nothing. From university professors to unskilled labourers, anyone holding a passport issued by a country in Africa will be treated the same by UK border officers. They will also show no compassion for or recognition of the need for people to be reunited with family or to see friends.
In fact it’s not too far-fetched to say an African passport is a no-travel document. Even countries within Africa are miserly with each other. I am a veteran visa applicant, and I can tell you there is no respite. A European visa is as prohibitively hard to secure as one to a neighbouring African country. My Sudanese passport meant that I had to become an Olympian visa-applier in order to visit, study and settle in the UK. You can’t slouch with a passport from a country on a terror watchlist.
My Sudanese passport meant that I had to become an Olympian visa-applier in order to visit, study and settle in the UK
I can trace the entrenchment of the Home Office’s hostile environment over the past two decades or so via the different processes of applying for almost every UK visa possible – student, extension-of-student, family, holiday. I have known them all. I have measured out my life in visa rejections and appeals. I have applied for visas that don’t even exist any more.
In my experience the policy known as the hostile environment has not only been punitive towards immigrants, but also towards visitors – who, for the most part, are on professional or business trips, or holidays. I like to keep a sense of humour about the wording of rejections. An application by my mother to come to visit me in London was refused on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of our relationship, and therefore no guarantee that she would return to her home country. I quipped: “I will append print-outs of our WhatsApp conversations next time, reams of screenshots of her messaging at ungodly hours saying, ‘Are you still up?’” But the visa officer was less than amused.