The New Times (Kigali)

31 August 2012

Rwanda: Ease Immigration Restrictions for the Sake of Sport

editorial

Five African volleyball national teams missed out on the ongoing Swatch Junior World Beach Volleyball Championship in Halifax, Canada, after they were denied Visas by the host nation.

Burundi, Guinea Conakry Morocco, Nigeria and Rwanda all qualified for the international competition, prepared themselves for the games and applied for Visas in time but their requests were turned down.

For the case of Rwanda, Canadian High Commission officials said they could not grant Visas to the pair of Denise Mutatsimpundu and Charlotte Nzayisenga - the reigning African champions - because they did not have enough money on them, despite the fact that the government had given the team $20,000 for the six days they were supposed to stay in North American nation.

Their accommodation costs were catered for by the organizers of the tournament.

The other teams were also denied visas on the basis that their financial statuses were deemed not good enough.

It is generally believed that Canadian embassy officials feared the athletes in question would not return to their home countries after the tournament. They would instead apply for refugee status.

It is unacceptable for any nation to deny sportsmen and women from other countries the opportunity to participate in tournaments for which they worked so hard to qualify for.

Countries with such fears could easily find other solutions without necessarily jeopardizing with athletes' future. For instance they can increase monitoring mechanisms during such games.

Athletes work so hard and their governments spend resources on their preparations.

While it's at the discretion of the host country to grant or deny visas, the essence of sport should make a far stronger case - than the immigration fears.

The organisers of international tournaments must take urgent measures to avoid similar situation in future.

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