Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:50 UK

Anger at Pakistani pipe band ban

UK Border Agency
Dozens of Pakistani officials and musicians were refused UK entry visas

The UK Border Agency has been accused of embarrassing Scotland by refusing entry visas for a Pakistani business delegation and pipe band.

About 30 members of Lahore Pipe Band will be unable to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.

A trade delegation from the city, which is twinned with Glasgow, has also been refused visas.

Hanzala Malik, executive member for Glasgow City Council's international affairs, said the move was "ludicrous".

It is understood the UK Border Agency turned down visa applications for almost all of those applying for visits to Glasgow from three Pakistani groups.

The Scottish Government expressed concern about the situation.

The majority of the members of the Lahore Pipe Band, who have taken part in the World Pipe Band Championships for the past four years, were refused entry.

The situation is ludicrous and the applications being approved or turned down are simply not consistent
Councillor Hanzala Malik
Glasgow City Council

A delegation of business people and officials from Lahore was also turned down.

Visa applications were also rejected from members of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Lahore District Government, who had been due to arrive in Glasgow for trade meetings.

Mr Malik, who represents the Hillhead ward, said the decisions had damaged Scotland's reputation and Glasgow had lost out on valuable income.

"The situation is ludicrous and the applications being approved or turned down are simply not consistent," he said.

"The city has lost out on important meetings and income as a result of this error."

'Goodwill lost'

He added: "The Lahore Chamber of Commerce had their applications refused, despite the British High Commissioner in Islamabad saying he was glad the delegation were coming to Glasgow.

"The deputy mayor of Lahore was the only member of the district government delegation who was allowed entry - even his wife was refused a visa.

"It's crazy. The pipe band have been here for four of the last championships.

Where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered
UK Border Agency

"Why are they being stopped from coming this year - with all the goodwill and spending they'd have done here being lost to the city?"

Tariq Bajwa, Lahore's deputy mayor, told BBC Scotland he could not understand the decision.

"Most of the people who were refused entry into the UK have a travel history there," he said.

Glasgow MSP Anne McLaughlin said members of Lahore Pipe Band faced problems in securing visas to visit Scotland last year before they were eventually granted.

"For this to happen once was bad enough, to repeat it this year is a disgrace," said the SNP member.

'International celebration'

"The pipe band are international ambassadors and Glasgow's Pipe Band Championships is an international celebration.

"Glasgow wants to welcome the Lahore Pipe Band to the competition, the UK Border Agency should grant their visas so we can do so."

A statement from the UK Border Agency said: "All applications for entry clearance are considered on their individual merits, taking into account all evidence submitted and in accordance with the immigration rules.

"The onus is on visa applicants to supply the necessary evidence in support of their applications.

"Where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered."

Scottish Culture Minister Mike Russell, said: "The Scottish Government is in touch with the UK Border Agency to discover the details of the case and we will do everything we can to help."

"Of course, such decisions should be made in Scotland by officials working for a Scottish government, and we need to move as quickly as possible to that situation, in order to avoid such incidents."



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