H. E. Mr. Ahmed Saleem, Secretary-General of SAARC, addressed the Core Group of Immigration and Visa Experts at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu today.
Participated in by representatives of all the Member States, the two-day Meeting of the Core Group brings together immigration and visa experts from the region in a bid to expand the scope of the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme. The Scheme currently entitles a limited number of people to visa-free travel within the region.
“I am happy to note that this meeting convenes finally today and tomorrow at the SAARC Secretariat with the participation of all the Member States. The presence of delegates from all the Member States not only signifies the importance of this meeting, but also augurs well for its success, paving the way for the smooth functioning of the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme,” said the Secretary-General in his address.
The Fifth SAARC Summit held in November 1990 in the Maldives had decided to launch the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme with the ultimate objective of putting in place a visa free regime in South Asia. “You would agree with me that considered as a milestone in the history of SAARC, the Scheme, that became operational in 1992, has enormous potential in enhancing people to people contacts in the region. Though there are presently only 24 categories of entitled persons, the list is bound to grow with the passage of time in the larger interest of our Association,” the Secretary-General stated.
Referring to the concerns regarding difficulties with the revised procedures for issuance of visa stickers to certain categories of persons including the businessmen, the Secretary-General urged the meeting to simplify them. “I would like to urge this meeting to revisit the procedures to make them simple and achievable,” he said.
The Guidelines and Procedures governing the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme provides for annual meetings of the Immigration Authorities of Member States in order to facilitate its smooth functioning. The Fifth Meeting of Immigration Authorities held in Malé on 24 September 2012 had recommended the convening of the Core Group of Immigration and Visa Experts to consider including new categories of persons.
On the recommendation of the Fifth Meeting of Immigration Authorities, a Meeting of Experts is to convene at the Secretariat immediately following the Core Group’s meeting, to consider the establishment of the SAARC Immigration Liaison Network, a proposal mooted by the Maldives.