NEW guidance will be drawn up to assist dioceses that wish to
bring foreign visitors to the UK, after a number of clergy who had
been planning visits were refused visas.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, said
last week that he would work with Home Office officials to prepare
advice for dioceses trying to navigate a proposed guest through the
The Revd Timothy Krindi, a priest from the Episcopal Church of
Sudan and South Sudan, was refused a visa in April, despite a
request from the diocese of Salisbury (which has a long-standing
link to Sudan) to come to Britain to raise awareness of the
conflict in his country (News, 4 April).
After investigating the case, Sir Tony said that he now believed
that the UK officials who had been processing visa applications
were pursuing a "tick-box exercise", and refused Mr Krindi's
application because he had failed to provide the correct
In a letter to Sir Tony, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, a Home Office
minister, said that Mr Krindi had not submitted any evidence of his
claimed income or financial circumstances; but, Lord Taylor said,
Mr Krindi was free to apply again with the necessary documents.
Canon Ian Woodward, vice-chairman of Salisbury-Sudan Link, said,
however, that the system was not flexible enough to work in poor
communities. "The visa authorities require evidence of income and
bank statements, while many Sudanese and South Sudanese people do
not have bank accounts, and therefore are not able to produce
financial statements. . .
"We are keen with to work with [Sir Tony] and the visa
authorities to ensure that the entry clearance system is made
better able to deal with the realities in other parts of the
Last month, at least eight Kenyan ordinands and clerics were
refused visas after being invited to join the diocese of
Chelmsford's centenary celebrations and mission (News, 23 May).
Sir Tony said that, in a similar way to Mr Krindi's case, the
applicants appeared to have not provided all the required
"This is more cock-up than conspiracy," Sir Tony said. "As I
have worked through each individual case, what has been clear to me
is that, in many instances, the people in Kenya genuinely believed
that simply because they had a letter of invitation from the
diocese of Chelmsford, that would be sufficient to get them a
He said that unless the applicants had the precise documents
proving their financial circumstances, their applications would
fail. He was "cautiously optimistic" that those Kenyans who had now
re-applied with the correct paperwork would succeed in getting
A spokesman from the diocese of Chelmsford said on Tuesday of
last week: "This is a situation that has caused considerable
distress. We appreciate Sir Tony's efforts to obtain visas for our
colleagues from Kenya, and we very much hope that the number of
people who are granted visas will increase."
The issue had been exacerbated in recent years by a
centralisation of the visa applications, Sir Tony said. "Visas are
now processed remotely, and are more process-driven rather than
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said
when the Kenyans' visas were refused that the decision to refuse
them made him "ashamed". He accused the UK Border Agency of
unfairly discriminating against poorer applicants. These sentiments
mirror those of Christopher Fielden, who was organising the
proposed trip by Mr Krindi from Sudan.
Sir Tony said, however, that it was his view that the
immigration rules did not discriminate against the poor, but were
simply being applied more rigidly against those who had not
provided the correct paperwork. He did acknowledge that this was
becoming a problem for dioceses, nonetheless.
"I will try and sit down with immigration ministers to see if it
is possible for the Home Office and myself to draft some advice to
dioceses on making visa applications for visiting clergy."