Ugandans share bitter experiences at UK, Canada Visa offices

What you need to know:

Since the beginning of this year, dozens of Ugandans have talked of frustrations and politics at the different visa offices in Kampala. They have talked of eligible applicants being denied Visas on “sham grounds” even after taking their visa application and wasting time preparing all the necessary documentation to allow them visit UK and Canada.

KAMPALA. A section of Ugandans have taken to their anger to social media platforms to curse “small gods” at United Kingdom and Canada Visas offices who use “flimsy ground” to deny them visas to the two countries.

Since the beginning of this year, dozens of Ugandans have talked of frustrations and politics at the different visa offices in Kampala. They have talked of eligible applicants being denied Visas on “sham grounds” even after taking their visa application and wasting time preparing all the necessary documentation to allow them visit UK and Canada.

The latest victim of visa denial is Ms Sheila Kawamara Mishambi, the Executive Director of the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI).

On Friday, Ms Mishambi, a former Uganda representative in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), a gender and development specialist, and an activist posted a long message on her Facebook wall cursing the UK visa office in Kampala for denying her a chance to attend the daughter’s pre-wedding ceremony.

Ms Mishambi said in the post that also missing out of the UK Visa are her two other children on grounds that the UK government was not convinced they would be able to return home.

“Yesterday (Thursday), April 25, my daughter, arrived in the United Kingdom, all alone to celebrate her pre-wedding celebratory moment with her fiancée’s family. Painfully, I could not be with her, nor her siblings who were denied visas. Reason given by the cowardly anonymous officer that he or she ‘could not guarantee that they were genuine visitors to the UK and that they were likely to return to Uganda after their stay.’”

She narrated that her two children who recently got their jobs as lawyers were eager to travel to the UK to accompany their sibling for the pre-wedding party because an official at the Visa office said their bank statements were not satisfactory to be granted visas.  

“My question is; as a family, if we had proof of air tickets, hotel bookings, invitations etc that were demanded by the UK Visa and Immigration, what made Mr or Ms Anonymous think that we wanted to use this opportunity to run out of warm, comfortable and beautiful Uganda to permanently settle in the cold, possibly on the streets as homeless aliens in the UK. At least I know for sure, neither me, nor my children would make such a miserable exchange or take such a pathetic decision,” she added.

The activist who claims her net worth is even far higher than that of an average Britons wonders why, the UK visa office would subject her family to a “laborious and tormenting” experience in filling the visa forms including disclosure of private data.

Ms Kawamara said will now wait for her daughter to return home so that they continue with preparation for the wedding to be held in Kampala next month.  She also wants the UK embassy in Kampala to return her passport because she is not interested in the other options being suggested for her to travel alone without her children saying the actions of the Visa office are a violation to the rights of her family in Uganda and that in the UK.

 Similarly, Ms Mary Aliona, the president of the Uganda Community in South Korea (UCISK) who told Daily Monitor recently of how she was twice denied a Canadian tourist visa despite paying visa fees twice, something she described as “indirect theft”.

Ms Aliona who first applied to the Canadian Visa Office in Philippines but denied on ground that she may not return after the holiday in Vancouver and other cities, travelled to Uganda in March to apply from the Visa Office in Dar el Salaam, Tanzania but all in vein.

She said that at the time the Visa office in Tanzania bounced her, there were also over 40 other Ugandans that were stranded despite filing their hotel booking and itinerary details for their prospective stay in Canada.

“I am one victim of such cruelty of Canadian embassy visa section squeezing money out of Ugandans by denying them visas and ask them to re-apply hence paying new fees but again denied visas. On two occasions, I was told that I dint not qualify to be a tourist  and they were not sure whether I would return yet I am an alien resident of South Korea where I have worked and lived since 2005,” she said.

Ms Aliona said, her application met the financial requirements because she has assets and also the question of not returning was “verge” since she has travelled to over 10 countries around the world as a tourist.

“Canada must stop accusing Uganda of corruption when they are also squeezing every penny from us through applying for visa but instead give us refusals. Canadians frequent Uganda and given tourist visas at the airport without any hassle.  They are given security to tour our beautiful wildlife and scenery, why then deny us visa to see their moose animals and bears?” asked Ms Aliona who has since returned to South Korea.


Ugandans speak out

Although UK and Canadian official were not readily available to comment, more Ugandans have reacted to these visa denials with consternation and  many sharing their experiences of how they could not make it to the UK especially even after being invited by organisations’ to attend conferences.

Nyombi Thembo; the former ICT minister: Actually I have avoided to go to the UK for the past seven years now. Even with a diplomatic passport with all the guarantees these guys just want you to look worthless. Sorry my friend Sheila and thanks for sharing.

Mr Kenneth Kabagambe the Executive Director of the National Associations of People Living with Hepatitis B in Uganda: I have been denied a UK visa four times on the same reasons yet all my trips are fully paid up by the host organisation inviting me. We need to expose this. Imagine how much money they have taken so far,” Mr Kabagambe posted on Facebook.


What others say

Mr Jimmy Adriko: He missed his daughter’s wedding in the UK after being denied visa almost two years ago said; “We first applied as family with all necessary documents and land titles, bank statements from my son in-law, my daughters mother-in-law …..But I was denied visa”

Kenneth Lukwago: I was invited by the West minister Foundation to the House of Commons to make a presentation about coverage of parliament in sub Saharan region. I had a letter from parliament, a diplomatic note from foreign affairs, all tickets and accommodation.

Natumanya Ainebyoona: So sorry dear Sheila; I have always said that going to the U.K. is almost like going to heaven...on top of stripping of your privacy rights; you also pay hefty sums of money which will never be refund in case the visa is denied. We live in a World of Injustices!

Joan Aliobe: I have been to the UK on holiday and besides the Euros and cleanliness, there is nothing that would make me give up my Uganda for the UK. I can live a UK lifestyle right here in Uganda. Those guys are a pain in the "you know where". I know of a person they denied a visa because there was a lot of money in her account!

Edmond Owor: Air ticket Indicating return, invitation, hotel bookings, everything, including an elaborate travel history - sometimes with even a healthy bank account, the British will say he doubts...Hon (Mishambi) go make real noise at the (British High) Commission! I support! (NMG)