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Young Bengaluru athletes miss International Children’s Games due to long wait for UK visas

A 12-member contingent consisting of athletes were supposed to be in the United Kingdom (UK) Friday for the International Children’s Games (ICG).

International Children's Games, ICG, UK, VFS,Dubbing this as a “humiliation” and “negligence” on the part of the British High Commission in New Delhi, Elvis Joseph, founder of Bengaluru Schools Sports Foundation — which is associated with a network of city-based schools and sports clubs — said the children are heartbroken(Express Photo)

Chandramouli Ramkumar, 14, is a disappointed athlete who missed his first overseas athletic tournament because of a disorganised documentation process.

Not just Ramkumar, a 12-member contingent consisting of athletes who were supposed to be in the United Kingdom (UK) Friday for the International Children’s Games (ICG) had their hopes dashed after they did not get their visas from the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). The ICG is a major international event sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee for children aged between 12 and 15 years. This time, it is scheduled in Coventry from August 11-16.

The contingent applied for their visas on July 4 and were assured that they would be getting them in three weeks. However, the contingent was left at lurch after finding out that their visas had not been cleared and all communication lines were closed. Moreover, the passports of all the athletes have been withheld by the British High Commission in New Delhi for the last six weeks, without any explanation.

Dubbing this as a “humiliation” and “negligence” on the part of the British High Commission in New Delhi, Elvis Joseph, founder of Bengaluru Schools Sports Foundation — which is associated with a network of city-based schools and sports clubs — said the children are heartbroken.

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“Neither the British deputy high commissioner in Bengaluru nor the High Commissioner in New Delhi responded to our concerns. They have shut all the lines of communication. This is the 14th year that Bengaluru is participating. The students and parents are heartbroken because most of these athletes are aged above 14 and some are 15, making them ineligible for participation next year,” said Joseph, who added that the children have been practicing for a year now.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Ramkumar said, “I was very excited to travel to the UK for this tournament because it was my first overseas competition. This platform actually meant a lot to me because I was training really hard for this and it was a great opportunity to learn from other international athletes.”

Ramkumar, who will turn 15 in November, will not be able to participate next year. His mother Vijayalakshmi Ramkumar said, “It is really hard to come to terms with. An athlete not being able to participate in an international competition because of a disorganised documentation process is silly. This is a missed opportunity of learning more than winning.”

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Meanwhile, issuing a clarification on the non-arrival of visas, Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India on Twitter said, “Most of you are getting your visas to go to the UK within 15 working days, but there is a long tail of complex cases which are taking much longer. I want to apologize to everyone who’s been affected by this and distress which it gives you. The reason this is happening is because of the unprecedented surge in the demand for UK visas post Covid-19. Second because of global factors, particularly the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We are doing everything we can to get this right, by putting more resources, training more people and keeping open the priority visa service.”

First published on: 12-08-2022 at 05:52:19 pm
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