African officials denied visas to climate change summit because they are poor?

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Representatives of some of the world’s poorest countries have been excluded from the just-ended UN climate change negotiations in Poznan, Poland, because of they were either denied visas or obtained them very late.

A Malawian government representative was denied entry on arrival in Europe and had to return home.

According to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) delegates encountered the visa problems despite the host country and the Schengen region having a full year to prepare its consulates to issue the visas.

The IIED said in a statement on Saturday that this had hindered efforts to secure a fair global agreement because national negotiators, journalists and civil society representatives from some of nations most vulnerable to climate change had their arrival in Poland delayed by several days or had been unable to attend at all.

“We feel very frustrated and think the delay of our delegation to attend the fourteenth session of the UN Climate Change Summit will gravely affect us,” said Ben Donnie, head of Liberia’s five-man delegation which was held up in Nigeria for a week before the Polish Embassy there granted them visas.

There are only three Polish Embassies in sub-Saharan Africa – in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria – and most African delegates had to travel to these countries to get their visa, or fly into another European country before moving to Poland with a Schengen visa.

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