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Visa Applications (Punjab)

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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What assessment he has made of the difficulties of Punjabi people travelling to New Delhi to pursue applications for entry clearance to the United Kingdom; and if he will establish a consular service in Chandigarh. [15998]

The size and location of diplomatic posts around the world are under constant review. The difficulties of travelling to New Delhi are well understood, but for logistical and resource reasons there are no plans to open a visa office in Punjab.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the disappointment with which that statement will be greeted by many people in the Punjab and by their relatives in this country? Does he realise what long distances people on extremely low incomes must travel to New Delhi on missions to obtain visas, which are often fruitless because of the bureaucracy and inefficiency of the service there? Will he give at least some hope to the people in the Punjab that the matter will be kept constantly under review, and that an innovative solution will be found, such as opening a consular service in Chandigarh for one day a week?

We always review the possibilities and we are keen to provide the best possible service, but I meant to convey to my hon. Friend the fact that, although the process is under constant review, I cannot give any immediate hope that we will be able to open such a facility.