UK visas could hurt business links, says Leon

The British high commission has confirmed that it is reviewing the relaxed visa requirements it shares with South Africa.

It says that the British government took the decision out of concern that it is too easy to acquire South African travel documentation illicitly.

The British are considering compelling South African citizens to apply for visas in advance. At present South Africans can travel and stay in the United Kingdom for up to six months without a visa.

This move, says spokesperson Russ Dixon, came about after Stephen Lander, head of Britain’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency, urged his government to consider travel restrictions to thwart foreign nationals who fraudulently obtain and illegally use South African passports to enter the UK.

Terrorists can enter the UK using South African passports, Dixon says. The visa review is part of an international exercise undertaken by the British government and will affect all countries that are members of the European Union.

This move has prompted the DA to write a letter to Paul Boateng, the British high commissioner to South Africa, urging caution on the part of his government.

‘Such a move will have a serious effect on business and travel links between our countries and create barriers to entry which are without precedent in terms of the travel regime which has stood since the time of union in 1910,” says Tony Leon, foreign affairs spokesperson for the DA.

Leon urges the South African intelligence and home affairs ministries to solve all problems that permit a perception that the country is a ‘haven for international terrorists and criminals”.

Lorna Daniels, spokesperson for the intelligence ministry, says her ministry has remained ‘vigilant”.

‘The minister [Ronnie Kasrils] has said that if there were incidents, those were dealt with,” says Daniels.

The department of home affairs says it is aware of British moves to review visa regulations for all countries. Cleopatra Mosana, spokesperson for the department, says there are persistent problems with the ‘integrity” of South African travel documentation and the department is working hard in ‘strengthening the credibility” of such documents.

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