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Sub-Saharan Africa: Visa Applications

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

3. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the visa application process for visitors from sub-Saharan Africa. (901483)

The Government regularly monitor the effectiveness of the visa application process in sub-Saharan Africa as part of their monitoring of the global visa service. We are committed to the UK benefiting from a safe and secure visa service while providing a first-class operation to genuine visitors.

Next month marks 10 years of formal co-operation between the Governments of Scotland and Malawi, but I have heard from the Scotland Malawi Partnership that Malawian nationals are finding it increasingly difficult to apply for visas, making strengthening community links more difficult. Given that the partnership has told me that every part of the system seems to be becoming about charging more and delivering less, will the Minister meet me and representatives from the partnership to discuss those concerns in more detail?

I am always pleased to meet hon. Members to discuss the work of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, and I fully recognise the close bonds and ties that have existed for many years. Our focus is on delivering a high-quality service, and I am pleased to note that about 86% of applications from Malawi are successful. We are considering closely how we can improve the service further, however, and I am certainly happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the issues on his and the partnership’s mind.

The Mayor of Calais has a point, does he not, about there being a unique pull factor—[Hon. Members: “She!”] I do apologise. I am sure she is a most impressive lady and a friend of our nation. Anyway, she has a point about there being a unique pull factor in the benefits we pay, how we deal with discretionary leave to remain and the fact that people can vanish into the black economy. Rather than just concentrating on visa applications, therefore, will the Minister undertake to remove all these pull factors into this country?

I think my hon. Friend, in his own distinct way, has highlighted the important distinction between legal and illegal migration and the challenges we have faced in terms of migratory flows and those putting their lives at risk on the Mediterranean sea and in the hands of people traffickers. We are examining all options, as part of the Government’s comprehensive stance, and focusing in particular on those people traffickers and smugglers selling people false hope and putting their lives at risk.