By Ajibola Amzat
THE National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) has criticized the Spanish Embassy over its “racist” treatment of Nigerians who seek to travel to Spain.
In an -mail sent to The Guardian recently, NANTA accused the Spanish Embassy of collecting visa fees from Nigerians without refunding such fees when the applications are rejected, describing such practice as “fraudulent”.
According to NANTA, many members of the association missed the recent Skal Congress in Malaga because of the embassy “obnoxious policy”.
“The group members had paid for the congress and submitted all relevant documents even letters from the organisers yet they refused to grant the visas,” said a member on NANTA Whatsapp group.
“They (The Spanish Embassy) believe Nigerians want to relocate to Spain, even the professionals with a good job and children.
They must think people pick diamond on the street of Madrid,” another member said.
Narrating his experience, the National President of NANTA, Aminu Agoha, said, his application was first rejected in 2014 when he was officially invited to attend the World Summit of Presidents of Associations of Travel Agencies in Bilbao, Spain.
“The invitation came with full sponsorship by the Technical Secretariat of the Summit, including registration, return flight ticket, accommodation and full boarding.
“I submitted all the necessary documents required including the Association’s bank statements as well as that of my agency. After waiting for over one month, the application was rejected based on an absurd reason that they were not satisfied that I would return to Nigeria.”
Agoha, who is also the MD/CEO Visa Travels & Tours Limited, said the Association protested against the decision, and the Embassy apologized with a promise “that such would not happen again”.
But NANTA President received similar treatment two years later when he got another invitation to attend the same event.
“I submitted all the necessary documents including the official letter of invitation from the Technical Secretariat of the Summit confirming responsibility for all expenses for the trip, NANTA Bank Statements for six months as well as that of my agency. At the time of application, I have in my passport a valid 5year visa to the United Kingdom.
“Regrettably enough, after waiting for another two months this time, my visa application was turned down again for the same reason ‘they were not satisfied that I would return to Nigeria’.
“I believe this obnoxious policy of the Spanish Embassy in Nigeria is a deliberate attempt to prevent Nigerians from visiting Spain no matter the importance of such visit, because if as the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, with over 1,200 IATA Accredited Travel Agencies, providing employment for over 12,000 Nigerians, contributing to the GDP of Nigeria and selling air transportation and ancillary services for over 30 International Airlines operating in this Country (including IBERIA – the Spanish Airline), is refused visa to attend an international event in Spain, then it is not only unfortunate but deplorable and unacceptable.
The Embassy collects visa fees from Nigerians and don’t refund such fees when the applications are rejected. The Nigerian government should as a matter of urgency investigate this scam by the Spanish Embassy in Lagos,” he stated.
The Deputy National President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, Mrs Susan Akporiaye told The Guardian that only discrimination against Nigerians could make the Spanish Embassy deny them visa with such frequency.
“It sure is discrimination because there was no reason whatsoever to have refused some of my colleagues and I visa. I am a travel and tours consultant. I am widely travelled. There’s no continent in the world that I have not been to except Australia.
“ I have never been refused visa before. One of the Spanish requirements is to make two copies of all visas in my passport I thought this was to make their Job easier so they can know those that are frequent flyers but it was not the case. The conference we were going to attend was not free, we paid for the conference and accommodation, I had letter of invitation from my association to that effect and there was also the option to call the committee in charge of the conference because their contacts and email was included. With all this I was still refused visa; that is discrimination.”
When The Guardian contacted Spanish embassy, the office of the Consulate General in an-mail, denied any act of discrimination against Nigerians.
Here is the response of the embassy: “In response to your email, please be informed that there is an active concerted effort between the Consulate General of Spain, the Economic and Commercial Office of the Embassy of Spain as well as the Spanish Ministry of Trade to consolidate the already existing economic ties between Spain and Nigeria. We also promote tourism in Spain.
Last year, Spain surpassed its international tourist record, with more than 68 million visitors. Our goal is to increase this outstanding number. There is no basis for the suggestion that there is an underlying bias against Nigerian visa applicants.”
When The Guardian requested to know how many Nigerians are included among the 68 million people who visited Spain last year, the Embassy has not yet responded since two weeks ago when the request was made.
Meanwhile, NANTA has threatened to petition the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter.