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Sri Lanka bishop fights Britain’s visa fingerprint obligation

The Anglican Communion has its headquarters in London but Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Sri Lanka says he will not visit Britain unless it lifts the mandatory fingerprinting of visa applicants from his nation, or applies it to citizens of all countries.

"This is discriminatory and an insult to the Sri Lankan citizens," said Chickera, as he described his campaign against British fingerprinting requirements for Sri Lankan visa applicants, along with citizens of several African nations. "I know this decision is a costly one for us as our mother church is there. But, my conscience does not permit me to honour this partisan requirement," Chickera said.

Britain made fingerprinting mandatory for Sri Lankans applying for visas in 2004 after introducing it in 2003 on a trial basis. It also announced the scheme would be applied to those applying for visas from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.

Since then, Bishop Chickera has been demanding the revoking of the requirement, sending off protest letters to the British interior ministry, and the British high commissioner [ambassador] in Sri Lanka.

"Our demand is to make it universally applicable and stop the selective discrimination," he added. "Britain is singling out Sri Lanka and a few others. This is unacceptable."

In his letters, Chickera said the fingerprinting requirement evoked painful memories of a humiliation experienced by Sri Lankans due to suspicion that "all or most of us" are terrorists, asylum seekers or economic refugees.

Many thousands of Sri Lankans have migrated to European countries due to the ethnic conflict in the island nation where more than 65 000 people have been killed and nearly two million people have been displaced from a population of 20 million.

(c) Ecumenical News International