UK reconsiders Caribbean visa waivers
LONDON, England, April 1, 2010 - British authorities are considering whether to continue to allow Dominicans and St Lucians to enter the UK without visas.
Residents of other Caribbean countries will keep their visa free status for now, but a change has not been ruled out.
UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson gave that indication as he announced the final stage of the UK's first global review of visa regimes in relation to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
"The UK will always welcome genuine visitors". --UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson
He said that having initially considered the Eastern Caribbean states on a regional basis, a decision was taken to examine them individually and the evaluation highlighted concerns with Dominica and St. Lucia.
He did not, however, reveal what the identified problems are.
"We recognise that we have close historic, economic and political ties with Dominica and St Lucia and are aware that the introduction of a visa regime would be a significant step. It is a decision we do not take lightly. As a result we will now enter a six-month period of detailed dialogue with the governments concerned to examine what actions will be taken to address our concerns and mitigate the need for a visa regime to be introduced," Johnson said.
He said that during this period, Dominica and St Lucia will need "to demonstrate a genuine commitment to put into effect credible and realistic plans, with clear timetables, to reduce the risks to the UK, and begin implementing these plans by the end of the dialogue period".
Additionally the British authorities have written to the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines to advise that, while they will maintain their visa-free status for the time being, the decision will be subject to a further review.
Johnson said the UK Government remains committed to operating a firm but fair immigration policy and it gives a high priority to treating all foreign nationals coming to or present in the UK with dignity and respect, and the highest legal standards.
However, he added that the government expects all visitors to the UK to "play by the rules".
"The UK will always welcome genuine visitors, whether business, tourist, student or family, but will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the security of the UK," he said.
The Home Secretary said a visa regime is a very effective immigration, crime and security control measure and the visa waiver test helps determine whether they are in the right places.