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10 Feb 2009 12:55
The British authorities have announced that South Africans wanting to visit Britain will have to have visas from next month. Any South African who has already been to Britain, using his or her current passport however will not have to get a visa until later in the year.
News of the restriction was broken in the National Assembly to South Africans by Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
She told members that the announcement was being made in the British House of Commons that afternoon and that South Africa recognises the right of the UK government to do so. She said the two governments will be keeping in touch on the matter and her department will be doing its best to address the UK concerns over the security of South African passports.
A British government statement said on Monday that the decision follows a global review of the UK’s pre-entry immigration controls and reflects the UK government’s commitment to strengthen its borders.
Commenting on the move the British High Commissioner, Paul Boateng, said on Monday: “The introduction of a visa requirement is in no way a reflection of any deterioration in our continuing and strong relationship with South Africa. The maintenance of warm and friendly relations and the close links between our two countries remains of paramount importance.
“We are committed to continuing to welcome South Africans travelling for legitimate reasons to the UK. The UK remains a favourite destination for both business and tourism for South Africans and will continue to be so. Our aim is to provide a first-class service to all. Visas will provide added security and protection for travellers to the UK.
“This, together with the introduction of biometrics, will ultimately provide a safer and better experience for the ordinary travelling public.”
The British statement said that for some time South African nationals have required a visa prior to travel to European Union countries in the Schengen group, as well as to Canada and the US. “Our decision to implement new visa requirements has to be set against this international desire to strengthen borders,” the statement said.
The visa requirement arises out of as need for the UK to defend its borders against infiltration by terrorists, a fear compounded by the weakness of control over the issuing of South African passports by Home Affairs.
The British statement also suggests that the global expansion of the UK’s visa practices will in some way help to reduce the risk of South Africans being unnecessarily delayed on arrival in the country because of their current concerns over the security of South African passports.
“Indeed the decision to increase the number of visa regimes is a clear signal of our resolve to protect our border and our citizens from those who, for a variety of reasons, have sought to abuse our immigration rules,” the statement said.
“In total, nearly 75% of the world’s population are subject to a visa requirement prior to travelling to the UK. We have excellent relations with the vast majority of those countries whose nationals are already subject to a visa requirement.”—I-Net Bridge
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