Former British ambassador 'horrified' by UK visa system
A former British ambassador to the UN said he is “horrified” by the UK's visa system after a Syrian delegate was obstructed from attending a Scottish conference.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who spent 18 months as ambassador to the UN before being appointed Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq, said the UK's strict visa rules are deterring foreign investment and representation.
The president of the United Nations Association (UNA) of Syria had to cancel his trip to an international conference on A Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction, at the Scottish Parliament today, after he was refused a UK visa from the Syrian capital, according to Sir Jeremy.
He said: "I'm afraid that Professor George Jabour, president of UNA-Syria, was unable to reach us because he couldn't get a visa easily under the British system.
"Having left my government service I think I can freely say, without being sacked this time, that I am horrified by the way the British Government runs its visa system.
"We are a country with 30% of our GNP (gross national product) involved in global trade.
"If businessmen in a large number of countries around the world; if politicians, other visitors, members of civic society, cannot get a visa to the UK in their own capitals, they're not going to want to come to Britain.
"Therefore, I apologise remotely to George Jabour that he is not able to come because he was not prepared to go to Beirut through his own country and wait several days for a visa to come through."
Beirut lies 50 miles west of the Syrian capital Damascus in neighbouring Lebanon.
Sir Jeremy left his post as the UK's special representative for Iraq, which also shares a border with Syria, in 2004 after serving for less than a year.
Shortly after leaving the post he sent drafts of a planned book, provisionally titled The Cost of War, about his experiences as UN ambassador and Iraq representative, to the government.
However, it never emerged after then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was said to have asked him not to publish the book, even though he had not read it.
Sir Jeremy has been chair of UNA-UK, a civil society organisation which acts as "a critical friend" of the United Nations, since 2011.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander hoped Mr Annan's visit to Damascus would bring "urgent, concrete results".
Mr Alexander said: "Condemnation from the UN Security Council of the appalling crimes perpetrated by the Syrian regime is welcome but insufficient given the slaughter.
"It was right for William Hague to travel to Moscow today to make clear the responsibility of the international community, including Russia to come together in a stronger and more effective diplomatic response."
Revealed: Devastating impact of 'bedroom tax' sees huge leap in demand for emergency hardship handouts for tenants
Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
Revealed: Eerie new images show forgotten French apartment that was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched for 70 years
Five-year-old British girl who died in a pool at Coral Sea Waterworld Hotel in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort named as Chloe Johnson
- 1 Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
- 2 Gove’s lesson: spare the comma, spoil the child
- 3 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 4 Grace Dent on TV: Extreme Couponing, My Strange Addiction, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£30000 - £40000 per annum + BENS: Progressive Recruitment: Drupal Developer A ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + bens: Progressive Recruitment: C# WEB DEVELOPER Le...
£240 - £260 per day: Progressive Recruitment: WPF Developer (C#, VB.Net) North...
£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS2 teacher needed to do PPA ...