Commonwealth plans visa waiver for member countries

The Commonwealth of Nations has set in motion plans to review restrictions on free movement among member states.

To this, the body is tinkering with the idea of wavering visa requirements for some categories of citizens of its member states to facilitate easier movement among them.

This is aimed at boosting people to people contact and relationship among member nations.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary organization of countries with a shared history of having been British colonies and also some non British colonies that freely acceded to join.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, announced the plan after a meeting with Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir. Kamalesh Sharma, in Abuja.

He said the organisation is considering bringing back the visa waiver practice as was the tradition in the past for diplomatic and official passport holders.

The matter which would be thoroughly discussed at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November, according to the minister will also include extension of the waiver to other categories of citizens such as academicians, business leaders and other professional groups that are easily identifiable.

He said, “The Commonwealth Ministers conference has already recommended for approval at the next CHOGM meeting, the exception of holders of diplomatic and official passports within the Commonwealth from those required to obtain visas to travel within the member states.”

The minister further stressed that such concessions are expected to ensure that ordinary citizens feel the impact of the organisation.

Ashiru also said that steps are being taken to strengthen trade and investment among member states and to promote youth empowerment programmes.

He also revealed that the issue of strengthening democracy was discussed.

He further added, “We need to look at the program of education in most member states to ensure that they are adapted to a situation whereby graduates would become self employed after leaving schools instead of searching for jobs.”

On his part, the Commonwealth scribe said some studies have shown the “Commonwealth effect” to be an entity that has huge economic potentials for its member states including providing employment for the youth population.

While admitting that the citizens of the member states have not been fully integrated, Sharma submitted the visa waivers would be a very good step in that direction.

“It is the Commonwealth of the people and the movement of people that is very intrinsic,” he said.

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