British High Commission Opens Up To Media
By Phyllis D. Osabutey
This may be true, but the Commission does a lot more than it is known for, hence authorities at the Commission decided to hold an open day for journalists, taking them through the various departments and their activities.
The Deputy High Commissioner, Caron Rohsler, in welcoming the journalists to the Commission, in Accra on Thursday, said they were opening their doors to the media because – “you are the eyes and ears of society and are well-placed to explain what we do here at the High Commission.”
She said there is a vibrant relationship between the UK and Ghana that is rooted in a shared history with long-standing economic, political, social and cultural connections.
She added that the common language shared by the two countries make them natural partners in business and commerce, stressing “British businesses have been flourishing in Ghana for over hundred years.”
According to her, UK exports in goods to Ghana last year increased by over 20% to £516, from £426 in 2011, making Ghana “the UK’s sixth largest export market in Africa and third in sub-Saharan Africa.”
In terms of aid, she noted that the UKaid programme, as one of the largest bilateral aid donors, lead on the development partnership based on a ten year framework agreement.
She emphasized that Ghana and the UK continue to have much in common, including a shared commitment to democracy, good governance and the rule of law, adding “the threats posed by drug trafficking and criminality which put at risk the many gains we have made.”
Visas are a means of facilitating exchanges such as commerce and education. Often, Ghanaians complaints have been the issue or refusals for visas to travel to the UK, and generally to other European countries.
On this topic, the Head of the UK Board Agency for West Africa, Visa section, Nick Crouch debunked allegations that the commission or visa section has a quota regarding the number of visas to issue at a particular time.
According to him, “every single application is assessed on its merits and there is nothing arbitrary about it.”
He noted that the visa application goes through a process whereby qualified entry officers thoroughly examines each case, and is further quality assured by management.
Also, the section generally issues more visas than it refuses, and reviews refusals more than it reviews issued visas so as to be sure that people are not wrongfully refused, he stated.
He explained that the reasons for which people are refused visas include the applicant’s inability to meet immigration rules, inadequate or incomplete documentation, and delay in filing application.
Additionally, applicants must be able to provide evidence of financial capacity to sustain them throughout their stay in the UK, and also evidence that they will return to Ghana at the expiry of their visas.
Nick Crouch said on the average, the section handles about 150 applications a day, but the number fluctuates depending on the times such as during summer or winter.
In all, “there is no magic involved,” but applicants must simply follow the guidelines for visa application, as spelled out on their website.
As part of the open day, the journalists were conducted round various section of the Commission, including the Visa section, Department for International Development (DFID), political section and the trade and investment department.
At the visa section, journalists were taken through the various procedures for processing a visa. At the DFID office, the various aspects of their work was explained to the journalists. Among other things, DFID works with government and non governmental agencies to help tackle poverty, and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Its top priorities include encouraging enterprise and wealth creation, helping government of Ghana ensure that all children get a good education, and reducing maternal mortality and child deaths.
The others are to improve accountability of government and decision makers to citizens, and tackling inequalities, such as regional poverty and improving opportunities for women.
The political section of the Commission reports to the UK office about ongoing developments in Ghana, such as preparations for elections and activities of political parties among others.
The section also handles bilateral relations between the UK and Ghana, while focusing on other issues such as the commonwealth and climate change, among others.
Finally, the trade and investment department assists UK registered businesses that want to operate in Ghana with their various needs such as information about products, pricing, general investment climate and research, where required.
The areas of prospects for UK businesses, currently include oil and gas, agriculture, construction, education & skills, healthcare, ICT and tourism. The main UK businesses in Ghana include Armajaro, Barclays Bank, Blue Skies, Vodafone, Tullow Oil and Virgin Atlantic among others.
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