Abuja – Nigeria. The Polish Embassy in Nigeria embarked on massive visa refusals to duly accredited civil society groups and media representatives who applied for visas to attend the COP 19 in Poland. This has significantly reduced participation of civil society organisations and the media at this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Conference of the Parties (COP19) holding in Warsaw, Poland from 11th – 22th November, 2013. The embassy has denied well over 100 visa applications citing a blanket reason that “…purpose of travel was not justifiable…” despite applicants providing authenticated UNFCCC accreditation letters, a return air ticket, hotel reservations among others.
Contrary to the information on the official website of COP19 that participants shall enjoy special facilitations in visa procedure in Polish consular posts, the reverse has been the case in Nigeria. The Polish Embassy in Nigeria has greatly restricted the number of visa applicants to the embassy by not allotting special interview date to visa applicants as promised. Emails to the embassy are mostly ignored or replied very late.
Visa interviews at the embassy were conducted behind tainted glass with the interviewees not able to see the person conducting the interview and their visa application rejected on same day based on the date of the rejection stamp placed on the passport of applicants! Applicants were made to suffer double jeopardy as people who do not live in the capital city, Abuja, have to bear the cost and stress of travelling to Abuja for the appointment and then they are given a date (mostly a week later) to return experiencing the same journey, only for them to realise that their passport had been stamped as rejected since the day of their interview.
More so, participants with full sponsorship and clear evidence of financial means throughout their stay in the Schengen area were denied visas and treated with utmost disdain by the officials of the embassy. Some who came for interview were postponed indefinately and had to return to the embassy everyday with no acknowledgement or response from the embassy till date.
In view of this humiliating experience at the Polish Embassy in Nigeria, we affected civil society organisations demand the following:
- Swift investigation by the UNFCCC secretariat and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the reports of bias visa application treatment and disrespectful disposition of the staff of the Polish Embassy in Nigeria 2.
- Official apology by the Polish Government and immediate redress of the situation; and
- Document commitment to improve relationship with civil society organisations and media representatives in the country going forward.
Youth Vision Alliance Network (YVAN), Nigeria, Zero Carbon Africa, Nigeria, HEDA Resource Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Ecoagriculturist (Nigeria), HACEY’s Health Initiative, Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change – Nigeria (AYICC), Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Nigeria, Green Impact International, Nigeria, Renaclip Foundation, Knowledge and Care Providers, Nigeria