By Tom Westcott.
London, 19 June 2013:
The Deputy Minister of the Economy, Dr Abdelkarem Mgeg, was unable to attend yesterday’s roundtable ahead . . .[restrict]of September’s Foreign Direct Investment Libya Focus conference, after failing to get a visa to travel to the UK in time.
The UK visa regulations have been tightened recently but attendees at the FDI Libya 2013 roundtable conference on the future of Libya’s economic progress claimed they were shocked that even a government minister could not get a visa.
The co-chair of FDI Libya, Michael Thomas, told the Libya Herald: “Visa issues seem to be a continual thorn in the side and, for some reason or other, are creating problems for genuine applicants to the detriment of British business.”
Thomas said: “I believe the embassy are doing their best but it seems to be a UK Border Agency problem.”
Visa problems at a ministerial level, at a time when the UK is trying hard to promote the services and products of British companies, are a major embarrassment for the British government.
Tariq Mohammed, Projects Manager for Pace Group which is organising FDI Libya, played down the gaff. “The Minister really understands,” he told the Libya Herald, adding: “He is delighted that his visa has now been processed and is ready for the September conference.”
Others who attended the meeting were less sympathetic. “This is a shame on the British economy,” one businessman told the Libya Herald. “How can they expect to do business with Libya under these circumstances?”
A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said tonight: “Visas are a matter for the Home Office and, in any event, we could not comment on individual cases. Nevertheless it is very important that Libyans are able to visit the UK and we are working on the visa issue.”
Visa problems are also causing problems for Libyan students wanting to study in England, forcing many to look to other countries, such as America, for further education opportunities. With the Libyan government committing LD 10 billion to fund study abroad, England is siad to be losing out on potential students. [/restrict]