Some African clergy are having their UK visa applications turned down simply because of their low income, according to the Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
The Rt Revd Nigel Stock, speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, said that despite having endorsements from senior English bishops, Africa Christians responding to invitations to enter the country are failing to get the required visa.
He said, "It seems that a new economic test is being applied to them. Able, well qualified Africans are being invited to conferences in this country and endorsed even by bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but are being turned down because their personal income is low. As most African clergy live on sacrificial stipends that are intermittently paid, we are wondering whether we can ever invite anyone again from Tanzania."
Responding to his comments Lord Henley, who leads all the Home Office business in the House of Lords, said he would look very carefully into the matter raised by Bishop Stock, "I cannot believe that someone who is being endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury or, for that matter, by any right reverend Prelate, could be turned away," he said. "I would want to look at that and at the particular circumstances to which the right reverend Prelate has referred. Certainly, we would not want that to be the case."
The issued was raised during a session of the UK Parliament's second chamber following a question about how the British Government would respond to a report by the chief inspector of the UK Border Agency on the handling of visa applications to the United Kingdom from Africa.