The UK's Home Office seems unwilling to explain why passport holders from Caribbean countries with reportedly loose passport policies are permitted visa-free access to the UK.
For example, when former Nigerian oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke was recently arrested in London on corruption-related charges, she was found to be in possession of a diplomatic passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica, a small independent country in the Caribbean. A quick search on Google reveals numerous similar examples involving several other countries in the region.
Concerns about security, illegal immigration and money laundering have led Canada to revoke visa-free access for a number of the countries involved. However, the UK continues to allow visa-free access to passport holders from many of these jurisdictions.
I asked the Home Office why - and hit a wall of silence.
Below the five questions I sought an answer to:
- In 2010, the UK threatened to impose visa restrictions on Dominica. After a review period had elapsed, no visa restrictions were imposed. What changes did Dominica undertake during 2010 that led UK authorities to conclude that continued visa-free entry did not pose any security or other risks to the UK?
- Does any entity (governmental or otherwise) involved in processing and/or managing applications for Dominican citizenship and/or passports share information on the identity of people who have applied for and/or been granted Dominican citizenship and/or passports with any UK agency?
- What action, if any, is the UK government currently taking to screen and/or entrants into the UK who are travelling on passports from Caribbean states that run economic citizenship programmes?
- How many people travelling on passports from Caribbean states that were originally acquired through economic citizenship programmes were refused entry to the UK during 2015, and for what reasons? (please provide a breakdown by country issuing the passport)
- Is Ms Diezani Alison-Madueke still in possession of a valid Dominican diplomatic passport?
I first asked the Foreign Office, which informed me that:
"These questions are for the Home Office as they are referring to Visa's [sic] and citizenship... The Government response to this would need to come from the Home Office, regardless of where information was sent or received. It would be up to them to offer a UK government response, as they lead on this issue. We will not be able to offer a press response to this."
"I suggest you contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the below."
After I pointed out that it was the FCO that had sent me his way, the press officer promised a reply.
Nine days and four reminders later, the Home Office still has not explained whether or how it screens Caribbean passport holders entering the UK.
So now I've filed a Freedom of Information request with the Foreign Office.
The request is public and once the FCO provides a response, hopefully by early February, their response will be public too.
Keep tuned to this blog to keep track of the story...
Note: I am currently working on articles related to economic citizenship programmes in the Caribbean for several international media outlets. If you have experience of working in the sector or have yourself obtained a second citizenship in the Caribbean, and would like to share your experiences, please get in touch.