JIS News

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, expressed his concerns about the United Kingdom’s (UK)Transit Visa Policy and Air Passenger Duty (APD), in his contribution to the 2009/10 Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Wednesday (July 29).
Dr. Baugh told the House of Representatives that the transit visa policy will pose a significant impediment for Jamaicans travelling through the UK to other countries.
“We strongly believe that for Jamaicans travelling as tourists, as students, businesspersons and officials, the policy presents serious hardships,” he said.
He also noted that for Jamaicans energised by the prospects of engaging in business links with Europe, under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EU), it removes commitments on services which are seen as vital components of the EPA.
“We have urged the UK authorities to work with us to consider measures that are facilitatory. For example, we believe that where persons are able to transit the UK without leaving the port at which they enter and such an airport has in-transit capacities, there should be no need for a transit visa as they would not be entering British territory,” Dr. Baugh said.
“We are open to ideas on whether there can be a satisfactory mechanism for addressing transit, which involves a change of airport within a given UK city. In addition to the burden of access under the transit visa regime, we also recognise that the fees charged are burdensome, especially in the context of UK nationals having no such burden as there are no visa requirements for them,” he added.
In addition, the Foreign Affairs Minister made mention of the increase in the Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is purportedly an environmental tax on travel by air. The first increase of 25 percent will come into effect on November 1, 2009, to be followed by an increase of 87 percent on the same date in 2010.
Dr. Baugh explained that APD is seen by many as an “unreasonable assault” on Caribbean tourism, as destinations further from the UK than Jamaica are assigned lower rates. For example, a traveller to Hawaii or California, which are much further from London than Kingston, will pay a lower APD, he noted.
“This effectively gives to these destinations a competitive advantage over the Caribbean, at a time when we, as developing countries, are struggling to overcome a grave global economic crisis for which we are not responsible and stand to become the greatest victims,” Dr. Baugh said.
He also cautioned that the APD presents serious difficulties for Jamaicans in the Diaspora who will pay much more to travel to their homeland. For example, a family of four travelling in economy class to a Caribbean destination will pay

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