Prospect protests over visa refusals

Prospect in protest to Theresa May over visa refusals for Kenyan guests

Prospect has written to Home Secretary Theresa May strongly protesting at the British government's refusal to grant entry visas to two Kenyan trade unionists invited to attend the union's national conference in Bournemouth last week.

Five hundred delegates unanimously carried an emergency motion expressing disgust at the decision by the UK Border Agency to deny entry to the guests from sister trade union KETAWU, representing energy workers in the country.

They instructed General Secretary Paul Noon to protest to May on behalf of Prospect's 120,000 professionals, managers and specialists. Agnes Githumbi, women's president of KETAWU, and David Songok, KETAWU's national chair, were perceived as at 'risk of flight' because they did not have enough money in their bank accounts. Their appeal to the UKBA, supported by Prospect, was also rejected.

Noon said: "Maybe if they had said that they were here to see the Olympics rather than declare themselves as trade unionists, they would have been let in."

In his letter, also copied to the head of the UKBA, he stressed: "This was not a stand-alone invitation but part of a long-running and successful joint project with Prospect sponsored by the Department for International Development." For three years the project has focused on supporting KETAWU to build effective industrial relations, tackle climate change and assist women in tackling discrimination and harassment.

Prospect had bought air tickets for the invited guests and lined up a programme that included spending time with DFID's private sector and climate units and the TUC. Noon said there was "not the slightest possibility that Agnes and David would have done anything other than return to Kenya at the end of the trip. Both have commitments, jobs and strong ties in Kenya."

The emergency motion stated: "The decision suggests that only the wealthy are worthy of entering the UK and if it is not challenged, it will restrict the ability of these activists and trade unionists from developing countries to share experiences, learn new skills and help develop their capacity as civil society organisations."

For more about Prospect's work with KETAWU, see the international area of the website.