The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, has called for a review of policy on issuance of visas to Nigerian sportsmen and women.
Dalung made the call on Tuesday in a protest letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, over the refusal of the U.K. and U.S. to issue transit visas to Team Nigeria to the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas.
Nigeria, having secured Bahamas visas had applied to the U.K. for transit visas to enable the team to fly through London.
A disturbed Dalung said in the statement that the team was also made to pay for priority service in addition to the regular visa fees to expedite the process.
“All necessary travel documents to support their applications were included but only one person was issued visa out of 26, while 24 were denied and one still pending.
“The same response was received when the Ministry of Youth and Sports took their applications to the U.S. Embassy,’’ the statement quoted Dalung as saying.
It added that Dalung lamented the refusal to issue transit visas in spite of several attempts to get the Foreign Affairs Ministry to intervene.
“We were made to make an express payment which we did and at the end of the day, a majority of our young athletes were sadly denied visas.
“I am in pains and I have been devastated because this has serious implications on the psychology of these young people who had offered to serve their country.
“I have deposited a protest with the Minister of Foreign Affairs against the two countries to explain to us why these young people who are sportsmen and women were denied mere transit visas,’’ it said.
“We were not asking for residence or long term visas. We just requested for airport direct airside transit visas which will only allow them to remain at the airport and change aircraft for onward journey.
“We will need an explanation from these countries. It is unfortunate.’’
The statement said the minister, however, called for a review of such policies that hamper solidarity among nations.
“Ironically, we don’t have such harsh policies in Nigeria. Citizens of these countries walk into Nigeria like lords but Nigerians seeking just transit visas are treated like common criminals in these countries.
“This cannot continue. We must redefine our relationship. If it is not mutually inclusive and beneficial, then we should know where we belong,’’ it said.
The statement said the minister thanked the parents of the young athletes who were denied participation in the Youth Commonwealth Games for allowing their children to be in camp for over five weeks.
count | 28