Lahore Pipe Band Refused Visas

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The Times reports that 65 visa applications have been declined by the UK Border Agency, including most of the members of the Patiala Pipe Band, with the remainder being connected to the Lahore District Government and Chamber of Commerce. Similar difficulties have been experienced in previous years.

I have to admit I am better able to understand and find this understandable than I was the decision to hold Canadian singer-songwriter, Allison Crowe under armed-guard prior to deportation. Firstly, no non-British citizen has an absolute right to enter this country. Secondly, regardless of complications arising from induced partus of named terrorism-related investigations, elements in Pakistan are to be considered to be potential Jihadist sympathizers.

The scheduled events, including the World Pipe Band Championships, take place over the coming days. Although there are suggestions of the process having been emerging for some weeks, from what I can glean the bulk of UKBA rejections have been made over the past few days. This leads me to suspect that insufficient time may have been allowed to adequately examine a large number of visa applications from a country which is a reasonable source of concern for immigration agencies.

One of the few measured responses I have seen came from Ian Embelton, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association:

Obviously we are disappointed if any bands are unable to enter the country to compete at the worlds, especially a band like Patiala that has been so colourful and entertaining over the last four years. However we can’t comment on the reasons why the visas were refused.

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Since gaining minority control of the Scottish Executive… whoops, sorry… Government… no, wait a moment… Executive, many in the SNP have found themselves with the influence of a power which, when they were in opposition at Holyrood or a minor political entity in Westminster, they had little acquaintance with the responsibilities of. As such, for those of us who never fail to howl with horrified laughter at the mayhem in those cauldron battles of the stupid wars which Scottish politics has become, there is an endless supply of intemperate remarks and non-entities jumping in front of the cameras.

And they have not disappointed here.

Amateur photographer and list-MSP for Glasgow, Anne McLaughlin has bloviated onto the scene:

For this to happen once was bad enough, to repeat it this year is a disgrace. I will be in touch with the Borders Agency to get this decision reversed.

The Pipe Band are international ambassadors and Glasgow’s Pipe Band Championships is an international celebration.

This kind of decision gives Scotland a bad name and shows up the shambles within the UK Border Agency

Glasgow wants to welcome the Lahore Pipe Band to the competition, the UK Border Agency should grant their visas so we can do so.

SNP MP for Glasgow East John Mason added; “The UK Border Agency gets worse by the day. Lahore is Glasgow’s twin city, it is ridiculous we cannot welcome trade and political delegations that could bring business connections to the city.

Oh, dear, where to start? Most of Scotland gives her a bad name without any further assistance. If it has happened before, it is possible that either insufficient attention or time was not attached when this application was being submitted, or these are reasonable causes for concern.

This is an international ambassador. Ambassadors tend to be required to follow security protocol and checks; not be permitted to self-appoint and choose their destinations. Michael Russell, SNP Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution has claimed similar ownership of cultural exploits in the Calvinist Republic of Scotland by saying:

I am very concerned to hear about this problem, particularly during the year of Homecoming when the celebration of all things Scottish is taking place worldwide.

Celebration of naff stereotypes is taking place worldwide? Says whom? If I said I could tap-dance, find a cure for cancer and woo Hadise, would that make it true? No.

As can be seen, John Mason makes a confident statement that UK Government arms are steadily deteriorating, with no elaboration, and implicitly claims that the Scottish Executive is an oasis of reason. Regional authorities should have the opportunity to establish trade and cultural links off their own backs, but equally should adhere to UK legislation and policy.

If the SNP wishes to govern as a responsible administration, they should also come to accept that there is a need to follow established procedures. Hanzala Malik, executive member for Glasgow City Council’s international affairs and Labour councillor for Hillhead expresses similar incredulity that planning is required when he :

[…] questioned the decision, pointing out that most of those refused entry had visited Scotland before. He said. “Many of them are serious business people, and the movers and shakers of the government of Lahore so that is embarrassing for us”.

Back to McLaughlin, we are told confidently that Glasgow “wants to welcome the Lahore Band” (again, I *want* a date with Hadise), thus “the UK Border Agency should grant their visas so we can do so”.

That is the thing about foreign policies, Anne. The Scottish Executive does not have one, which is why Russell is the Minister for *External* *Affairs*.

I am agnostic about refusing these visas. Maybe there are one or two sources of genuine concern, but I suspect that, regardless of the characteristic recourse to vituperation from SNP members, others have been reasonably refused because of improperly completed applications.

Any Administration with the responsibility for the foreign policy should appreciate this.

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7 Responses to “Lahore Pipe Band Refused Visas”

  1. Indy Says:

    Rather foolish of you to rush to judgement in this way.

    There have been very serious problems with visa applications from Pakistani nationals recently which most people think is due to the fact that many of them are now being processed at Abu Dhabi and not Islamabad. The refusal to issue visas to the Lahore business delegation cannot be blamed on incompetence as you suggest unless you are accusing Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Chambers of Commerce of incompetence because they provided the information about the delegates they had invited. Likewise the Patiala Pipe Band submitted their applications in good time and provided all the right information.

    It’s not just about business or cultural links. A lot of family weddings have been ruined this summer because applications have been refused. There is an understandable degree of scepticism that the entry clearance officer could seriously rule that granny can’t go to the wedding because she is intending to stay on and work illegally.

    I know of one case personally where a wedding party were refused visas because the entry clearance officer was apparently not satisfied that the sponsors could put them up and provide for them financially during the week long visit. The sponsoring family is one of the largest employers in the wholesale and retail business in Glasgow and Renfrewshire. They provide employment and pay tax to the UK Treasury but their family members aren’t allowed into the country for a wedding. Way to go UKBA. That’s how to reward wealth creators.

    It is not just a Scottish problem – the UK Border Agency has just refused visas to the Pakistani Blind Cricket Team, which was invited to England by the England and Wales Blind Cricket Association. That’s not going down too well on Radio 4 I can tell you.

  2. Alec Says:

    Oh, hallo, Indy, my little munchkin.

    Please point to where I have “rushed to judgement”, in ways which McLaughlin, Mason or Russell have not. Pay particular attention to my use of circumspect language, such as “it is possible”, and my view of the Crowe case as brainless idiocy.

    Again, I’ll repeat, no non-citizen should expect an absolute right to enter this country, and there is an established issue with non-chaperoned visitors arriving on inappropriate visas and staying on. If someone has a valid reason or suitable support for their visit, fine, come on in.

    But evidence should be provided. The UK Border Agency has serious shortcomings – many caused by the open-doors and/or materialist-based policy of the past decade which you implicitly advocate – but nor is this yet another opportunity to stoke divisive and separatists issues. It’s so much easier to criticize when one does not have the responsibility for said legislation.

    It does come back to haunt Scotland. Who can forget Salmond stammering that the Glasgow Airport attackers had to be from “outside Scotland”? Really? Complete this thought, Alex. Would you have rathered she exported her Jihadist loonies to England?

    That said, I have definite opinions which I do express in often trunculent terms. Then again, I am a blogger and not being paid for this or am in any position of political responsibility.

    McLaughlin, Mason and Russell are elected members of Parliaments. See the difference?

  3. Alec Says:

    UPDATE I’m on my mobile, so can’t log-in to WordPress.

    Jim Murphy has intervened, but failed: contrast the circumspect language used by him and GCC bigwigs to the spluttering invective from the Pooteresque voices above.

    There’s an ensuing discussion which, as I wish tn retain a will to live, I will abjure from.

  4. Alec Says:

    Cont… Re Indy’s attributing this, in toto, to Westminster or Whitehall; some were admitted, suggesting they satisfied checks which t’others didn’t. Not long ago, innocent arrivals on aeroplanes from Colombia met with delays at Customs.

    A mass application from Pakistan should expect detailed attentim, regardless of what some accidential MSP, who doesn’t appreciate protocol with cameras at Holyrood, says.

    Disappointing as I’m sure this is, I hope it focuses minds and encourages sounder checks next time.

  5. Indy Says:

    I am suggesting that you have rushed to judgement based on your clear assumption that the fault must automatically lie with visa applicants rather than UKBA. Your discussion of an ‘open door’ immigration policy is neither here nor there. We are not talking about people applying to live in the UK but to visit for a specific purpose – in the case of the Patalia Pipe band to compete in the World Championship, in the case of the Lahore business delegation they were invited to Glasgow by the City Council and Chambers of Commerce – Glasgow is twinned with Lahore.

    You say that if people have a valid reason for coming and do not intend to stay on then fine – but that is patently not the case. For example the wife of the Mayor of Lahore was refused a visa while her husband was granted one. She was refused a visa on the grounds that UKBA was not satisfied that she would return once the business trip was over – a clearly preposterous suggestion.

    I quite agree that no-one has a right to enter any country but they do have a right to expect the rules governing entry to be applied properly and fairly. They have clearly not been applied properly in these cases and have brought embarrassment to the country as a consequence.

    It has been suggested in the press that UKBA is taking a particularly harsh approach to Pakistani nationals because they have been instructed to do so as part of applying political pressure to the Pakistani Government to sign an extraditon treaty with the UK.

  6. Alec Says:

    You need a crash course in reading/comprehension and journalism, Indy. The main here was the lack of candour and decorum from Snuppies who pin all responsibility *and* border-abuse on the UKBA. “The sort of thing which gives Scotland a bad name”? And I’m the Queen of Sheba. The indecent haste to release a convicted mass-murderer is cause more upset.

    Return also to my use of “it is possible” or “understandable”. Recall, I’m an amateur journalist whilst they’re professional politicians (as in who gets paid).

  7. Alec Says:

    *border-line abuse

    It’s a very serious allegation that the UKBA is breaching/ignoring legislatim. D’you have evidence beyond anecdotal?

    This is the craic which, heavenfored, a real Scottish Government would face: a foreign policy maintained by diplomacy and measured dialogue, not pretendy-life in a wendy house with supplies of ginger and scones. Given that you would dismiss Salmond’s guff about haggises as jossing, you are in very little position to enter this debate.

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