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Bahrain lawmakers call for reciprocating visa measures

European countries should ease process to end applicant’s pains

Gulf News

Manama: Bahraini lawmakers have called for adopting the principle of reciprocal treatment with countries that require visas from Bahrainis.

“Up to 46 per cent of Bahrainis have in a recent survey said that they were not at all satisfied with the complex measures imposed by western embassies in Manama in the visa application process,” MP Sawsan Taqawi said. “Half of those included in the survey said that they faced real difficulties to obtain the visas. On the other hand, the citizens of these countries obtain the visas to enter Bahrain at the airport and with ease. I really wonder about the significance of bilateral agreements, coordination meetings and the role of ambassadors,” the lawmaker said referring to a poll carried by a local newspaper.

She said that the discrepancy in the treatment by Bahrain and the other countries extended to the fees.

“While Bahrain requires an amount that does not exceed 20 dinars (Dh193.77), the other countries impose exorbitant fees,” she said. “When Bahrainis complained about the delays and formidable challenges in obtaining Schengen visas, the foreign ministry undersecretary sat with three diplomats from western countries and said that Bahrainis should apply for their visas three months ahead of their travel dates. That was not the solution for the woes of Bahraini citizens,” she said at the parliament session on Tuesday.

Fellow MP Sumaya Al Jowder said that Bahrainis have been suffering to obtain their visas.

“Some countries are unusually strict in their measures and it is about time that we reciprocated,” she said. “Foreigners obtain their visas to enter Bahrain easily and without complications and in a short period of time while Bahrainis face serious problems and challenges to apply and when they apply for the visa. We do require the competent authorities in the concerned countries to ease the application process and requirement,” the lawmaker said.

Reports have surfaced lately in the Gulf claiming that Gulf nationals would be exempted from applying for the Schengen and UK visas. However, the reports have not been supported by statements from European or British diplomats.

In Manama, Alberto Vecchi, the Italian ambassador, said on Sunday that he was not aware of any talks to waive entry visas for Bahrainis.

“Visas are no longer a national issue, it is a Schengen issue,” Vecchi said. “Any approach to abolish visas would not have to be made on a bilateral basis but at the Schengen level. We can talk about facilities we may give to businessmen or to specific categories at the national level. But, when we talk about the visa system, we talk about a much larger stature that goes much beyond the national capacity,” he said.

The diplomat said that the issue was not the time needed to process the request.

“The problem is the access to the system when there is peak load of demands. What is not taken into account in most cases is that on special occasions, all the people queue up to have access to the procedure and the human resources are limited and cannot be expanded to that effect. My advice is to think in advance of requesting an appointment for a visa, because you might find yourself in a situation where if many people around you have decided to go on holiday at the same time and are queuing up, bottlenecks for the access to the procedure are created. But once you have accessed the procedure, it is almost immediate that the visa is issued,” he said.