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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 18:53 GMT
Jamaicans say visa decision 'racist'
Immigration control at Heathrow
Immigration checks can be slow
From midnight on Wednesday all Jamaicans visiting Britain will need visas. The UK Government's decision to introduce visas has been heavily criticised by some in the Jamaican community.

Simba Tongogara has lived in Britain since 1967, when he arrived from Jamaica with his family as a boy of 12.

He is now a pillar of Bristol's Afro-Caribbean community and runs Youth Promotions, which helps young black people.

Mr Tongogara is angry the new visa requirement has been introduced and believes the government has made a huge mistake.

This new regime is going to do long term damage and affect decent folks

Simba Tongogara, British Jamaican
Mr Tongogara said: "It seems the government has made a U-turn.

"Tony Blair went to Jamaica not so long ago and said he wouldn't introduce visas for Jamaicans visiting the UK.

"I feel it is institutionalised racism by the government. They should be the role model and they have let us down.

"Jamaica is part of the Commonwealth and the government should show allegiance to the Commonwealth."

Five-hour wait

Mr Tongogara said he was regularly "harassed" by immigration officials at Heathrow when returning from Jamaica and faced lengthy delays proceeding through passport control.

He always carried his original passport and documentation to show he had lived in the UK for a number of years, but it had little impact on officials.

Diane Abbott MP
Diane Abbott: Visas will not deter criminals
Sick of the long waits and the red tape, his frustrations got the better of him last year, when he reluctantly abandoned his Jamaican passport and applied for a British one.

He said: "This new regime is going to do long term damage and affect decent folks.

"Not everyone coming here from Jamaica is going to do bad things.

"This is 21st century Great Britain and it is multi-cultural.

"British, white residents don't need a visa to go to Jamaica or any other Caribbean island and don't suffer the treatment that Jamaicans face having to enter the UK."

He said the British authorities should concentrate their efforts on eradicating the shipment of drugs to the Caribbean islands.

Criminal activity unaffected

Labour MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, told BBC News 24 she thought Jamaicans would be saddened by the new regime.

She also believed it would have no impact on reducing crime and drug trafficking between Jamaica and the UK.

Lord Ouseley
Lord Ouseley: Better ways of tackling crime
She said: "A lot of people involved in gun crime and drugs are British born black people and I also think the real criminals will simply forge their visas.

"The visa is not going to keep criminals out, what it will do is upset thousands of ordinary Jamaicans who come to this country on business, on holiday or to visit friends and family.

"America has one of the strictest visa regimes in the world and criminals slip in and out of there all the time.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the visa regime in itself will cut down on undesirables coming to this country - 99.9% of Jamaicans are very law abiding."

Crime management

Former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Lord Ouseley, is also sceptical about the new policy.

He said: "Some Jamaican nationals have been enraged that this has been introduced in a unilateral way."

Mr Ouseley, also speaking on BBC News 24, said: "There is a great deal of co-operation taking place between the British police force working with the Jamaican police force.

"There are reciprocal exchange arrangements in trying to tackle the problems as they affect both countries and I think that's an approach that we need to see continue to bring meaningful results."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's June Kelly
"Every Jamaican national arriving in the UK must have a visa"
Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes
"We've been experiencing increasing immigration issues from Jamaica"
Diane Abbott, Labour MP
"Many Jamaicans will be saddened by this news"

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