Colombia and Peru will soon have visa-free access to travel to the EU for up to 90 days. According to the Panampost
“Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Ollanta Humala of Peru concluded the deal on Wednesday during an ongoing summit between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Brussels, Belgium. The agreement excludes the UK and Ireland.
The same article highlighted a number of Latin American nations and their visa-free position.
“Argentinean passport is the strongest in Latin America, securing its holders visa-free entry to 148 countries. Brazil is close behind (146), followed by Chile (141), Mexico and Uruguay (132), and Venezuela (128).”
United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently signed a similar agreement -known as Schengen– with the EU. Again the UK and Ireland opted out of such agreement. But given the UAE has invested billions in the UK those terms look hyprocritical and is bound to change. See update.
My thoughts turn to Jamaica where for some reason visa-free entry or visa on arrival access for Jamaicans is just for 81 countries. I find that low figure for Jamaica disappointing given that her CARICOM cousins have visa-free entry to far more nations:
- Barbados 138 nations (incl. visa free access & visa on arrival)
- Bahamas 138
- Antigua & Barbuda 132
- St Kitts & Nevis 132
- St Vincent & Grendadines 106
- St Luicia 105
- Trinidad 103
- Grenada 102
- Dominica 96
- Jamaica 81 (67 are visa-free)
Last month Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines plus Trinidad and Tobago signed a similar Schengen agreement. Trinidadians & Tobagonians can visit the UK visa free for up to 6 months.
- While the Jamaican governments of both colours push for tourism and foreign investors to the island what are they doing in the diplomatic service to increase Jamaica’s visa free access to more countries?
- Why has the Jamaican govt allowed their CARICOM partners to enjoy far better visa free terms?
- Why have they allowed their citizens to face some many unfair hurdles just to travel abroad on holiday?
In the UK I have had discussions with immigration officials from the frontline, casework through to senior management at UK Border Agency (UKBA). The anti Jamaican mindset in some quarters was devised in Downing Street by both Conservative and Labour policy groups.
Some immigration staff assumed Jamaica had a population of over 10 million or on a population par with Nigeria. When I explained that Jamaica has a population of 2.8 millions some of those immigration officials were surprised.
It is such ignorance that has been used to treat Jamaicans as lower league travellers. But others in UKBA and wider Home Office felt the islandwas getting a raw deal. Jamaican are such easy targets and rich pickings but the Jamaican media and government officials have not challenged the UK, EU and other territories in any coordinated form.
These days applying for a UK visa in Jamaica is more excruciating than a root canal. Jamaicans complete these visa application forms, pay thousands of pounds, only to be turned down and no refund. In any other business if you don’t get what you pay you would expect some form of refund. Legalised scamming by the Hign Commission which provides easy money for the Treasury.
Yet some Caribbean nations have been known to profit from their visa-free advantage:
- “Property developers in the United Arab Emirates are offering potential new home owners passports for Antigua and Barbuda when they buy a villa, opening up fresh avenues for visa-free travel to a wide array of countries for Emirati citizens.” – Middle East Eye 31 March 2015
- “St. Kitts has become the world’s most popular place to buy a passport, offering citizenship for $250,000 with no requirement that applicants ever set foot on the island’s sun-kissed shores. Buyers get visa-free travel to 132 countries, limited disclosure of financial information, and no taxes on income or capital gains. – Bloomberg 11 March 2015
During any departure from Jamaica it is embarassing to see UKBA staff at Jamaican airports checking your travel documents. When they ask what I was doing here I always respond with “what are you doing here”? Do you think the trade unions in England would accept Jamaican immigration staff at Gatwick or Heathrow in similar roles?
It is about time the Jamaican government, celebrities, business community, civil society together with their influential friends/partners lobby tactfully for a fairer visa-free position equal to their CARICOM partners.
It’s time Jamaica move up the visa-free league and not accept mid-table mediocrity.