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UK Visa Fraud And Matters Arising….
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This article promises to be one of the simplest I have done in the last several months. The object is to be chronological, more than being artistic. The issue of visa fraud is complicated by itself; I hope to add nothing more to the already confusing narratives out there.

My first attempt at traveling overseas was in January 2001. I was then the National Programs Officer of the National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS), and I was billed to attend the UN forty-something Preliminary Session on something, I have now forgotten.

It was an early morning, myself, Kwesi Amponsah-Tawiah (now Dr. Kwesi Amponsah-Tawiah of the University of Ghana Business School) who was then the NUGS Coordinating Secretary, Anderson Sosu (now a Banker in America), who was then the NUGS’ International Relations Officer, and the current PR Manager for the AGAMS Group, Emmanuel J. K. Arthur, who was then the NUGS’ Public Relations Officer.

All dressed in tie, young university graduates, and very optimistic student leaders, just coming out of the Mmobrowa student agitations, and poised to travel to the US, all of us for the first time. The US Embassy was then located somewhere near Osu.

The first to submit his application was Kwesi; he approached the counter, beaming with nervous smile, submitted his papers, and with an anticipated shock, he was refused the visa. Anderson followed, and he too was refused. At that point, Arthur and I should have just walked quietly off, but, well, we tried, just in case; I submitted, and I was rejected too.

So, one after the other, all the four of us had our visa applications rejected. The reasons given, at the counter, was that we were too inexperienced, and did not have sufficient family ties back in Ghana, to guarantee that we were going to return, after the program.

We were shocked, because we were all an elected NUGS officials. Besides our popularity nationwide, and the fact that we were less than halfway our national service assignments, all of our visa applications were guaranteed by the Ministry of Education, through the then Deputy Minister, Rashid Bawa.

Anyway, Anderson now lives in the US as a senior banker, having had further education in that country. Kwesi Amponsah had his PhD in UK, now works as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana, and travels to the world at will. Emanuel J. K. Arthur, who is burying his late father at Anomabo this weekend, has also travelled extensively, ever since, and has even covered American elections, as a senior Journalist with TV3. And yours truly, Simpa Panyin, I have had my passports littered with visas, and immigration stamps; I have been travelling, sometimes in a manner that feels to me, as though, the airport is a taxi rank, that planes take off to Europe, Asia, America, and back to Winneba; God is good...

So last week the UK High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin, stoked another fire; with his leaked letter to Parliament, indicting four MPs of visa fraud of a sort. The affected MPs are said to have facilitated the entry of some individuals to UK, through the use of their diplomatic passports, and their beneficiaries have since lived in the country illegally.

Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, wrote one of the finest pieces I have ever read from him, in response to the letter that Jon Benjamin wrote to the Speaker of Parliament. Mr. Ablakwa was unhappy that “because three sitting MPs may have misconducted themselves, all 275 MPs must now face the Head Master’s (if not the colonial Governor’s) wrath and sanctions. Such utter disrespect for our Parliament and our country regardless is most unacceptable.”

Probably, what my honourable forgot to mention, is the fact that there have been similar instances in the past when MPs have added their girlfriends as members of official delegation. I have the recent examples of Muntaka travelling with his girlfriend, as a member of an official delegation to Germany during the 2010 World Cup.

That is not to say travelling with your girlfriend is wrong; I am not in a position to pass judgement. But I see everything wrong if you fail to disclose that that lady you have added to the list is not an official, but rather an accompanying friend. It is just enough, and civil, in my view, to be open about who you are using your diplomatic status to help in a travel matter.

I see no reason why MPs could not help their family members travel with them. And I completely disagree if our government officials, including MPs, will have to acquire visas separately when they are supposed to be travelling with their family members or their genuine friends, whether for pleasure, business, or just for accompaniment.

But when our government officials, and MPs have abused their status, as diplomatic passport holders, then I am afraid the PR implications rightly affects, not only the holders of those diplomatic passports, but the entire Ghanaian populace. It is the responsibility of our officials to behave properly, to not only merit for themselves the continuous respect in diplomatic circles, but also to put themselves in the position to defend our rights to receive visas when we apply for them.

My thinking is that, it is about time we are honest with ourselves, that visa acquisition has become a black market business for many people in privilege positions. A number of our public officials have added travel opportunities as part of their electoral promises, and political achievements. There are individual visa connection people, who are still charging thousands of US Dollars to get visas for would be travelers, some have managed to transform themselves into travel and tour agents, some under the guise of supporters of sporting tournaments.

You remember the over 200 Ghanaian fans who sought asylum in Brazil after the 2014 Ghana’s disastrous World Cup campaign? Get close to them, and you will hear how some of them were coached how to seek asylum, and how not to come back to Ghana. Most of them were grass root political activists who were given Brazil as their reward for party work, and these were all planned and executed with some tacit involvement of some appointed public officials.

This is not about slavery mentally, as Mr. Ablakwa opines, this is about the integrity of the members of the institution that is making visa requests, and it is about the integrity of the visas that are issued from Ghana, it is about the due diligence that consul officials are required to carry out whenever they review visa applications, and if they can longer rely on the integrity of the honorable house, then you leave them with no option, than to double-check on the evidence of the honorable.

It is a fact that many people who commit high end crimes in this country use honorable positions to do so. Nayele Amatefe used the VVIP to smuggle cocaine into UK, and you know those who are supposed to be VVIP users? They are supposed to be men and women of integrity, they are supposed to be Honorables and Excellencies, and they are supposed to be people of impeccable character.

So if it is discovered that Eric Amoateng used the same VVIP to smuggle cocaine into America, and it is discovered that Nayele and many others also used VVIP to commit various crimes, tell me one reason why the UK boarder authorities should not subject our VVIP users to cocaine search? And tell me one reason why the diplomatic passports that we use in this country should not be a subject of integrity test? When you have broken the bridge of integrity, you don’t ask why the water was splashed, you just have to put up with learning to swim across, instead of expecting someone else to drive you; after all, it was you who broke the bridge.

You have a Parliament that is ripped apart with scandals of corruption. You have a Parliament that is filled with lies. You have a Parliament which is filled with fraud. So why should you not have a Parliament that is stripped off of diplomatic courtesies?  Put your house in order, my honorable, and you will not have to explain yourself to anyone, you will not have to demand to be called honorable...

James Kofi Annan
Source: James Kofi Annan/ [email protected]

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