JO - British immigration bias against Jamaicans
British immigration bias against Jamaicans
Sunday, December 02, 2007
It comes as no surprise to me that Jamaicans are more likely to be refused a visa than people from any other Caribbean country. But, when British Immigration Judge and Solicitor Cordella Bart-Stewart revealed this at an immigration seminar organised by the Jamaican Diaspora UK recently, some people were surprised.
Over the years, I have dealt with thousands of such cases and, even without studying the official statistics, it is clear to me that Jamaica and Nigeria are two countries which the British immigration authorities have a bias against. And before Britain introduced the visa regime, Jamaicans were also far more likely to be turned away at the airport on arrival. I dealt with many sad cases of people who had saved up for a ticket for a family funeral, etc only to be turned back arbitrarily by British immigration authorities at Heathrow or Gatwick.
But the official statistics on visa refusals do repay close study. On settlement visa applications overall: Barbados has a refusal rate of nine per cent, Guyana has a refusal rate of seven per cent, Trinidad has a refusal rate of five per cent, but Jamaica has a refusal rate of a whopping 50 per cent.
When people apply to visit their family: Barbados has a refusal rate of eight per cent, Guyana has a refusal rate of six per cent, Trinidad has a refusal rate of three per cent, but Jamaica has a refusal rate of 59 per cent. And this is the pattern for nearly all the categories of visas.
Jamaicans are refused far more often than citizens of any other Caribbean country. The first thing to say about these figures is that they mask the fact that many more Jamaicans apply for visas than people in other Caribbean countries. For instance, 8,632 Jamaicans applied to visit their familes as compared to 63 people from Barbados. So, even though the refusal rates are higher, many more Jamaicans are getting visas than travelers from Barbados. But even in categories where the numbers applying are comparable, the Jamaican refusal rate is far higher.
CHEVANNES.had problems obtaining a British visa
For instance, 391 Jamaicans applied for the working holiday-maker scheme, but even more Trinidadians (537) applied. Yet, the Jamaican refusal rate is 83 per cent, whereas only 17 per cent of Trinidadians were refused.
Jamaica Observer readers may ask, "Why are the refusal rates for Jamaicans so high?" British immigration officials argue that it is because Jamaicans are bad at filling out forms, or as they describe it: "improperly prepared applications and poor documentation". There may be some truth in this. But I do not believe that people in Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad are so much better at filling out forms. That explanation alone could not account for the huge disparity.
I believe that there is a bias against Jamaicans because of our supposed involvement in crime. But what is needed is some research instead of entry clearance officers acting on perceptions. For instance, it is true that Jamaicans are the largest group of foreign nationals in prison in British prisons. But how does that compare with the size of the Jamaican population in Britain as compared to the numbers of people from other Caribbean countries?
The assumption behind refusing a visitor's visa is that the applicant is not a genuine visitor, but plans to stay in Britain permanently. So what research has been done on how many visitors from Jamaica do actually overstay their visa? Britain is perfectly entitled to protect its borders from criminals and people trying to get around its system of immigration control. But I believe that in the process many decent Jamaicans are being treated unfairly.
For instance, the eminently respectable Professor Barrington Chevannes of the University of the West Indies nearly missed this year's Jamaica Diaspora UK conference because of problems obtaining a visa. But, at the same time, some obvious undesirables from Jamaica continue to slip into Britain.
The Jamaican Government needs to start challenging these very high refusal rates for Jamaicans.