Meanwhile many human rights campaigners are banned from leaving the U.A.E
In a sign that Britain remains very much committed to improving ties with a nation criticized for its treatment of rights activists, citizens of the United Arab Emirates seeking visas to the UK can now do so in the lap of luxury.
While many human rights campaigners are banned from leaving the U.A.E, others wanting to organize travel to Britain can make use of a streamlined, albeit expensive, new service.
In a bid to make the visa process quick and painless, the Home Office introduced two new bespoke “platinum services” for U.A.E citizens.
One, which enables individuals, families and groups of employees to complete a visa application from their home or office, is an on-demand mobile biometric service. It costs a minimum of £860 per visa, but group discounts are available. It entails a “small team” traveling to the applicant’s chosen location to complete the biometric enrollment process (capturing finger scans and a photograph). It is a service wealthy Emiratis will no doubt appreciate.
The Home Office said the immigration services on offer were designed “specifically for customers who want to sit back and relax while their visa application is taken care of”.
However, Shazia Arshad of the London-based International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) described the new service as “another display of the increasingly close relationship between the UK and the UAE”, adding that the “[UK] Government has been all too willing to ignore the human rights violations there”.
For those who do choose to come to the visa office, there is a second less expensive option. Using a chauffeur service “offering pick-up and drop-off from anywhere in Dubai”, they can make their way to the application centre and avail themselves of the “platinum lounge” at Dubai’s luxurious Wafi Mall, with its Egyptian-themed environment.
The lounge offers private booths, Wi-Fi connectivity and one-to-one assistance filling in the application. Drinks and snacks are provided.
The visa, once issued, will be delivered to the applicant’s door in three to five days, along with a “free oyster card to top up and use on London’s public transport system”. If the visa is needed more urgently there is a “super-priority visa service”.
Source: Independent UK