By Denrele Animasaun
“No man is an island, entire of it; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” — John Donne
You know how they say; East, West, home is best? Right. Well, I haven’t been to Nigeria for close to 25 years now so, where do I call home? I have always felt that Nigeria is my home but, my son came up with a happy medium that home, is where your family is. So I guess it is the UK because that is where my family and my heart is. When push comes to shove, though, I am a Nigerian born in the UK. I will always carry Nigeria with me, and I let people know that from the onset. Why haven’t I been home? And why that long? I don’t know, it just happened.
I do intermittently feel the pull for Nigeria but, always something or someone scuppers the urge such as, other places to visit, work commitments, lovely summers, not the right time and for years I have not questioned my reluctance to go back.
Then the children came along and I resisted the need to go, but deep down I have always felt the need to take my children to Nigeria, and show them the places of interest, the life and people. My saving grace, I suppose, is that my parents, siblings and close family have always visited the UK and that makes the call of “home” not as urgent.
My parents do visit but I really know how hard it is when my folks want to come and visit us in the UK. They have to run the gauntlet of the High Commission, documents, interviews, more documents, bank statements, more documents and the list is endless.
I mean, my parents are frequent travellers but the experience of getting a UK visa can be very frustrating. They only come to visit me and my siblings in the UK and to ensure that all is well and I equally, am relieved when I see them and knowing that they are hearty and well.
I have to write letters of invitations, and send photo copies of documents and sometimes original documents to verify that all is above board, so I provide what I can and no more, if they do not think it is sufficient then they can always call me should they require any other information or better still I give them my employers’ details should they want to verify my details. It can be a long and tedious process but I persevere knowing that my parents will be coming to visit.
My parents visits are to me, my tonic, my elixir and to my children it is one that they look forward to; my parents share stories of their youth, they connect with my children and make memories that will serve my children well into their adulthood. In fact every time they come they bring a bit of Nigeria with them!
These visits are life enriching; my parents have been crucial in passing on our culture, values, wisdom and traditions to my children. For me, it is priceless because when they are around I feel like a child again. My mother fusses over me and my dad, well, I am a daddy’s girl.
So you can well understand when I read that the UK is proposing £3,000 bonds in cash as a security against foreigners living in the country illegally after the expiration of their visas. Let’s be clear here so it is a blanket that every visitor will have to hand over £3,000 prior to entry and they will be given back if they do not over stay, the trouble who has £3,000 for surety, then costs of a ticket and spending money?
I know if that were me I will go elsewhere if I had to find the extra amount just to visit a country. The justification,according to the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, is that the bond will help recover the costs incurred by foreign nationals who come in to the country to use public services when they overstay their visas. And she continued “In the long run we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.’
So the £3,000 bond, which will be paid in cash and this only, applies to people from India, Pakistan, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nigeria. It means this pilot scheme of the new policy targets countries due to its high number of visa applications and what the government sees as relatively high levels of immigration abuse and fraud.
The Home Office said the six countries targeted were those with “the most significant risk of abuse”.
They stated that last year 296,000 people granted six-month visas were from India, 101,000 from Nigeria, 53,000 from Pakistan and 14,000 each were from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Moreover, they also want to cull the number of foreign students acquiring visas to study in the UK. This will be a shame as the foreign students tuition helps to ensure the success of many UK institutions.
To me, the move can be seen as divisive but they argue that it is actually called “selective”, well, it is a matter of syntax let’s call a spade a spade, this is not a fair move.
What is clear is that whenever recession bites, people are more likely to look for scapegoats and immigration has always been the whipping boy, in terms of economic ills. So it seems that the government is trying to score a political goal and pander to the right of the political spectrum.
Blaming high unemployment rates, overuse of public resources and crime on immigration rate is a low blow on law abiding and hard working immigrants and foreign visitors.
The economy has been stagnating and there is a full blown austerity and the mood of the nation is uncompromising that they want change. But blaming Immigration when there is an economic slump is not new but I understand the sentiments; that if there is not enough to go round how can we be welcoming others to come in to share the limited resources?
The number of migrant workers coming to the UK over the past decade has had little or no impact on joblessness.
What this will do, is perpetuate intolerance, xenophobia and paranoia. The England I know is that the majority will argue for fair play and defend the minority rights and I have no doubt about that.
I do not think that everyone that comes to the UK has the sole intention of over staying in spite of what it has been inferred nor have come to use the public services such as the health care, social funds and education.
So Abuja has thrown down the gauntlet, and issued a rebuttal, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru summoned the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock, over the proposal 3,000 pounds “cash bond” on visa applicants from Nigeria and other selected Commonwealth countries.
And the minister expressed displeasure of the government and people of Nigeria over the policy, which he described as not only discriminatory but also capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family.