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Show me the way to go home

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.

Elizabeth II and Cameron
Elizabeth II and Cameron

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.


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