Give us visa-free entry to the UK‚ 12 000 South Africans plead
Suthentira Govender | 2017-04-06 12:35:36.0
People ride in a capsule of the London Eye in front of the Big Ben clock tower in London, Britain, January 26, 2017.
Image by: TOBY MELVILLE
The Royal Commonwealth Society – a British charity working in Commonwealth countries – has submitted a petition to 10 Downing Street calling for visa-free travel for South Africans visiting the UK to be restored.
The business and diaspora-backed campaign received some 12 000 signatures from people across the UK and South Africa. The society’s director of policy and research‚ Tim Hewish‚ said that‚ since 2008‚ South Africans visiting the UK have been subject to expensive visa requirements which discourage them making the trip.
“The cost of such a visa has upset many South Africans that need to visit the UK for business‚to see family or even for a holiday‚” he said.
According to Hewish‚ the knock-on effect has seen the annual number of South Africans visiting the UK drop from 351 000 in 2006 to 231 000 in 2015.
“South African visitors to the UK spent around R4.2 billion in 2015. Had the UK retained in 2006 South African visitor numbers it would have resulted in an extra R2.1 billion per annum as well as an estimated extra 2000 tourism related jobs.”
South Africans have related their frustrations over visas to the society.
One Johannesburg businessman said he owned multiple businesses in the UK but visa requirements made travel a hassle for his staff who had to attend meetings and training in England.
“It is unreasonable that a modern South Africa‚ that is part of the Commonwealth‚ has these restrictions.”
The petition states that thousands each year are put off visiting because of the high UK visa costs.
“This has caused great pressure on reuniting families and friends. A six-month visa now costs R1 477. As a result the numbers of South Africans visiting have dropped by over 100 000.”
The society is hoping the petition will prompt both governments “to find a solution”.
– TMG Digital/The Times