UK declines Pak request to return 'visa processing' to country from Abu Dhabi 'hub'

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Islamabad, Oct 27 (ANI): Britain is not ready to entertain the Pakistan government's request for returning visa processing from Abu Dhabi to Islamabad, but has committed to streamline the procedures to ensure swift processing of visa applications from the country.

"The focus is on ensuring processing of applications swiftly and expeditiously," the Dawn quoted British Home Secretary Theresa May, as saying, while talking to reporters at the High Commissioner's residence on Tuesday.

She was replying to a query whether Pakistan would be excluded from the 'hub and spoke' programme and restart visa processing from Islamabad.

Under the 'hub and spoke' programme, Britain processes visa applications from a number of countries in Abu Dhabi, which serves as a hub for the processing of visas.

Pakistan was placed on the list after the British embassy determined that Islamabad had become unsafe for westerners and shifted the visa processing work to Abu Dhabi, which serves as the 'hub' for the region. But this has led to massive delays in the issuance of visas, in addition to a sharp surge in the refusal rate that jumped from 22 per cent to 44 per cent.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik had raised the issue of Pakistan's exclusion from the programme, May said.

The troubles encountered by visa applicants last year had been dealt with, she pointed out, and said, "I have delivered on our promise to determine all visas on time and within fifteen days."

Pakistan is UK Border Agency's (UKBA) fourth largest visa operation worldwide. Last year there were 90,000 applications for visit, work and study, which were processed in Abu Dhabi. (ANI)

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