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03-18-2010, 04:38 PM
UK: Palestinian farmers denied visas to visit UK


London, (IRNA): The British government is being urged to overturn a decision denying three Palestinian farmers from visiting the UK.

Lina Mahmoud, Nahed Beshariah and Belal Eid were due to attend the Fairtrade Fortnight to promote the export of olive oil from the West Bank to the UK.

The decision to deny the farmers, who are the first olive oil producers in the world to be awarded Fairtrade status, was raised in parliament in an Early Day Motion from Labour backbench MP Katy Clark.

Clarke reminded the government that Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed delight about the initiative last year and called for the famers to be allowed entry into the UK.

"Olive oil production provides an essential part of the West Bank economy. In buying this oil, British shoppers will be helping the farmers of Palestine to make a living," Brown previously said.

The ban prevented ethical shoppers and fairtrade supporters the opportunity to meet the trio who were due to take part in a packed schedule of events and talks across the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight.

Cathi Pawson, director of UK-based social enterprise Zaytoun CIC1, who invited the farmers, also criticised the ban as being “very strange” saying that the Fairtrade certification of Palestinian olive oil was even “inspired” by former prime minister Tony Blair.

“At a time when our government has a policy of supporting the development of the Palestinian economy, and Fairtrade olive oil is one of its few success stories to date, this refusal to grant visas is inexplicable,” Pawson said.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) campaign group compared the ban with Britain’s refusal to allow a Palestinian under-19 football team to come to Britain back in 2007.

“It was absurd for the footballers to be refused visas in 2007. That blunder did the UK government considerable damage in how they are perceived by the Palestinians. Once such occurrence is unfortunate, twice is literally careless,” JfJfP said.

The Fairtrade initiative was launched nearly 40 years ago to ensure that producers in the third world are not exploited and receive a fair price for their goods from buyers.