Отворено писмо -вариант 2 на английски
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Благодаря на всички за подкрепата !
OPEN LETTER CONCERNING THE ECAA VISAS FROM BULGARIA
We the undersigned individuals are writing to ask you to help us in our fight to restore the good name and the national dignity of the Bulgarian in the United Kingdom.
HISTORY OF THE ECAA
In 1995, the European Community and our country signed an Association Agreement part of which allowed us to go to member countries of the EU to set up in business as self-employed people providing our services in those countries.
Among other things, the Agreement provided that the EU countries should not discriminate between their own citizens and Bulgarians.
Since that time, many Bulgarians have applied for and been given visas to EU countries and have set up their own businesses.
THE CURRENT PROBLEMS
Earlier this year, we began to hear from the press that Britain was intending to stop issuing business visas to Bulgarians and Romanians because of the expansion of the European Union on the 1st of May 2004. We do not know whether these rumors were true or not, but, due to elections to the European Parliament in the spring, there were a lot of tension in countries like Britain, France, Italy and others. The main issue for campaign in the elections was immigrants and especially asylum seekers.
In Britain, the political parties all seemed to blame immigrants for any or all local problems including housing shortages, unemployment and Social Security benefits and crime.
It is very well known that any person in Britain who does not have Indefinite leave to Remain or who is not a citizen cannot apply for housing or Social Security benefits unless they are refugees or asylum seekers.
It is also a fact that the business visas that we Bulgarians have does not allow us to take up employment except to work for ourselves. Even if we tried, we would not be given employment because the employers always check visas and conditions before any employment is offered.
Most Bulgarians in Britain are here legally and are law-abiding and work in accordance with the conditions of their visas and pay their taxes and National Insurance contributions as is required by law.
In March 2004, due to allegations that there were malpractices in the processing of the business visas, the British government suspended the consideration of these visas. Mr. Tony Blair then appointed Mr. Ken Sutton to investigate the allegations and make proposals to the government.
We now know from the result of the investigation by Mr. Sutton that, there was not any major problems to do with Bulgarians or Romanians and that, it was rather a misunderstanding of the rules and regulations by either the British Home Office workers or their counterparts at the embassies in Romania and Bulgaria.
When news of the problems at the Home Office surfaced, the British press seriously painted Bulgarians and Romanians as lazy people who used forged documents and false information to obtain visas to Britain. The press had no facts or figures but played to popular sentiments and continued to print stories that were completely untrue or whose sources were unable to be traced.
In fact this period was one of the most humiliating for our dear country. It was especially difficult for our countrymen who live in Britain because they were perceived as of dubious character.
Mr. Sutton’s report did not find anything wrong with Bulgarians or Romanians. What he found wrong was the way in which these applications were considered by the Home Office in Sheffield and what the embassy’s view was.
The British government decided to start considering the applications again from the 1st of September 2004.
THE PRESENT SITUATION
When the business visas were suspended, there were at least three groups of cases that we have identified. These were:
1. People whose applications for business visas had been approved by the Home Office in Sheffield and whose passports were and still are in the British Embassy in Sofia. All the people in this category have had their passports in the embassy at least since March 2004. Many of them wanted to travel during the summer but were afraid to collect their passports to do so. Some of these people have contacted the embassy and have been told that, despite written confirmation that they have been issued with visas, they will soon be invited to the embassy for interviews. A majority of the people who fall in this category made their applications between September and November 2003 which means that the procedure has so far taken about a year and these people are still not sure what is going to happen.
2. The second group of people is those who have been informed by the Home Office in Sheffield that their applications for business visa have been approved and that they will be given visas. Some people in this category actually had telephone calls from the embassy, just before the suspension of visas, inviting them to submit their passports for visas to be issued to them. These people have also not been contacted by the embassy, but have been told that they will have to attend interviews at the embassy despite the fact that they were issued visas by the Home Office in Sheffield.
3. The last group is those who had their applications in the Home Office but had not received any result before the suspension of the visas. Many people from this group have been invited to the embassy for interviews since the 1st of September 2004
INTERVIEWS SINCE 1ST SEPTEMBER 2004
When the British embassy started the interviews for business visas, most people’s concern was how they would be able to express themselves in the English language. Many Bulgarians felt that, at least the interviews would be objective and fair. A few people believed that the interview would be very difficult. Not in our wildest dream did we know that these interviews were going to be used as a pretext to refuse everybody a visa. Almost everybody who has been to the interview has complained that the interviewers behaved very arrogantly and that from the every beginning, they felt that the embassy staff were only interested in looking for faults and to refuse them visas.
We have spoken to many people who were recently refused visas and we have seen the reasons for their refusal. The reasons given for all these refusals are similar and we comment on them as follows:
1. That the money is not enough or that they do not believe that the money belongs to the visa applicant: There is a lot of evidence, however, to show that these amounts are enough for business in Britain and that many people have been given visas with far less money. The people are also not given any chance to prove that the money belongs to them.
2. That the applicants do not know where they are going to reside in Britain or where they are going to do their business: It is very difficult to know in advance where one is going to rent accommodation until one has a visa or has even arrived in London. When people answer that they will find accommodation upon arrival, they are refused a visa. What would have happened if those whose passports have been in the embassy for 6 months had rented rooms well in advance of getting visas?
3. That the applicants do not know about the business standards and other detailed information in the Business Plans: Even big businesses pay accountants to prepare their Business Plans for them. It is therefore not strange that business visa applicants will pay accounting firms in Britain to prepare accounts for them. After all, it is such firms that would inform the applicant of trading standards and prices of materials and rates of pay. The people that we spoke to confirmed that they had provided the information to the firms for the production of these plans.
As we mentioned earlier on in this letter, Article 44 (i) of the Association Agreement says that Britain should grant nationals of Bulgaria ‘……. A treatment no less favourable than that accorded to its own nationals and companies…’.
It would be very difficult to see a British being humiliated the way that the Bulgarian has suffered.
As Bulgarians, we humbly ask our government to help us in our fight against:
1. The discriminatory policies and practices that are being used to refuse our compatriots visas
2. The prejudice that we are suffering due to the bad press that we have received in the British media this year
3. The suspense in which many of our fellow citizens have been kept
The Bulgarians in Britain are very hard working and paying all their taxes and bills. These people also return to Bulgaria with skills and resources to develop our country. Most of the people in Britain are young men and women and deserve the support of the government and people of Bulgaria.
We thank you very much.