Travel News

France to Toughen Controls on Foreign Investment in Local Firms - BLOOMBERG

AUGUST 24, 2023

BY  James Regan and Samy AdghirniBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pledged to reinforce controls on foreign investment in the country’s businesses in order to protect strategic industries and technologies.

The sectors covered will be expanded to include companies involved in the extraction and processing of critical raw materials, he said. Controls will also be extended to the French branches of foreign firms to crack down on buyers bypassing checks.

“The potential for preying on our technologies and know-how has never been so high,” Le Maire told business leaders Thursday during a visit to the Haute-Savoie region of southeastern France in his first speech since the summer break.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing Europe to become more autonomous following the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. France and other European countries are also asserting national oversight of businesses and re-thinking some of their supply chains to bring production of key equipment and technologies back to the region.

The committee that reviews foreign investments in France examined 325 dossiers last year, up from 137 in 2017, Le Maire said. He also reaffirmed that the 10% threshold at which controls are triggered on non-European entities taking stakes in strategic companies, reduced in 2020 from a prior level of 25%, would remain in place.

“This is about protecting the interests of national security, this is not about protectionism,” according to Pascal Bine, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. “France, the UK, Germany, Italy. All these countries now have more effective tools to control foreign investment.”

Earlier this month, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s cabinet approved legislation that gives the government extra powers to control what can be transferred abroad in fields including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, cybersecurity, aerospace and energy. 

In the Netherlands, new legislation will enable the Dutch government to limit the size of investments or block a deal entirely on the basis of national security. The legislation is aimed at protecting “knowledge-intensive companies against unwanted knowledge transfer,” according to the Defense Ministry.

Bine added that he doesn’t expect the measures announced by Le Maire to harm the economy. “Look at the US, which is the country with the most restrictions on foreign investment and at the same time the most attractive nation for foreign investment,” he said.

The number of notices reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, rose to 286 last year from 97 in 2013, according to its annual report.

Delayed Deal

France has recently started looking at ways to prevent Velan SAS, a domestic supplier of parts for nuclear reactors, from falling into US hands as it aims to protect a strategic industry. The business is a French unit of Quebec-based Velan Inc., which is being taken over by Flowserve Corp. The deal was expected to close by the end of the second quarter and has been delayed.

French nuclear-submarine parts supplier Segault SAS has already been carved out of that deal following government efforts to bring a key technology into domestic ownership, with a fund lined up to buy it in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Two years ago, France objected to a non-French investor taking over a grocery chain when it balked at an attempt by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. to buy Carrefour SA.

In his speech on Thursday, Le Maire said that France won’t invest money in cutting-edge technologies and training its best scientists just for it all to be stolen.


(Updates with analyst comment starting in sixth paragraph.)

UK student visas to Nigerians surge 73% in one year Bunmi Bailey Aug 24, 2023 - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 24, 2023

More Nigerians were granted sponsored study or student visas by the United Kingdom as the number almost doubled in one year, according to new official immigration data.

The data from the British government on Thursday shows that of the top five nationalities granted sponsored study visas, Nigerian nationals saw the most significant percentage increase, up 73 per cent from 33,958 in the year ending June 2022 to 58,680 in the year ending June 2023.

This means that 24,722 Nigerians were granted sponsored study visas within the period under review.

According to experts, Nigeria’s high intellectual capabilities, cheap labour, sizeable working population, high diaspora remittances, and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union are why the UK is scouting for Nigerians.

“They are looking for Africans not out of love but for the love of skills, especially those that can prepare them ahead of the future,” Kemi Ogunkoya, a Lagos-based leadership development strategist, said.

She added that Nigeria, which has a large population, has a lot of educated people. “So, it is more about the prosperity of the country and economic benefit they will derive.”

Read also: UK’s skilled worker visa scam leaves Nigerian victims stranded, renews struggles

According to Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, European countries will continue to look for more Nigerians to come into their region because it financially works best for them.

“Secondly, they believe Nigerians will be able to fill the unemployment gaps caused by the great resignation across Europe,” she said.

A recent article by Matthew Page, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted that British independent schools, especially private boarding ones, view Nigeria as an increasingly attractive market.

“Most of them warmly welcome Nigerian students and overwhelmingly see them as better-than-average performers and net contributors,” he said.

The UK, one of the most advanced economies in the world and top places to study, operates an immigration system underpinned by the principle of visa sponsorship.

The sponsor for immigration purposes is the educational institution where the student will study, and the visa is issued for a particular course.

In 2019, the UK updated its International Education Strategy. The update reaffirmed the government’s goals of increasing the value of its education exports to £35 billion ($48 billion) and hosting at least 600,000 international students annually by 2030.

The strategy commits to previously established goals for foreign enrolment growth, which new immigration routes and work opportunities for international students have replaced. It intends to create clearer pathways to immigration.

This growth will be achieved through the Graduate route, launched in July 2021. The course will allow eligible students to stay in the UK to work or look for work for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree in the UK. Others are high-potential individual visas, global talent visas and scale-up visas.

India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Europe, China, and Hong Kong are the markets spotlighted as priorities for the UK.

The minimum 600,000 target was achieved in 2021 as the total number of international students hit 605,130 and 679,970 in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The immigration data also revealed that Africa’s most populous nation had the highest number of dependents (67,516) of sponsored study visa holders in the year ending June 2023, more than twice the number (31,791) ending June 2022.

“Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependents, increasing from 24,858 to 43,552. The increases for Nigeria and Indian dependents reflect the increases seen in main applicants and are fairly in proportion to those changes,” it said.

However, the number of sponsored study visa holders and their dependents might decline next year because the UK’s recent visa policy restricts the number of families for international students due to increased net migration.

“The UK is a top destination for the brightest students to learn at some of the world’s best universities. But we have seen an unprecedented rise in student dependents being brought into the country with visas,” Suella Braverman, UK’s home secretary, said in May.

She said it is time for us to tighten up this route to ensure we can cut migration numbers and meet the government’s pledge to the British people to cut net migration.

“Students with families from Nigeria will most likely apply to study in Canada, Germany, France, Finland or Australia next year,” @OgbeniDipo tweeted via his Twitter handle.

“Europe has a population problem as it has an ageing population. This restriction will shed more light on other countries looking for skilled workers,” Toyyib Adelodun, a UK-based immigration consultant, said.

He said most of the tuition fees in European countries are not expensive, but the language barrier is the only problem. “But if Nigerians are determined to stay, they can overcome that problem.”

High poverty, unemployment, poor human capital development, insecurity and poor education are significant reasons many Nigerians are leaving the country in search of greener pastures.

Seeking higher education abroad has become a significant means of permanent emigration.

Ogunkoya said the ‘japa’ wave (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”) will continue to widen the talent shortages, and even the quality of talent left behind will be a problem for companies.

“So it is heavily dependent on the policies of the government. They must be more proactive by developing a strategic national plan to develop our human capital and improve our economy over the next five or ten years. Otherwise, organisations will be in a losing battle,” she added.

According to Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM Intelligence, up until now, the government’s approach towards engaging with the Nigerian diaspora has been hazardous at best or non-existent at worst.

“The fact that they left does not mean that we have to break up any engagement with them. We need a deliberate engagement strategy to attract skilled talents from Nigeria. We have to keep that engagement going so that their only connection in Nigeria will not be only sending remittances to their loved ones,” he said.

UK’s skilled worker visa scam leaves Nigerian victims stranded, renews struggles - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 25, 2023

Some individuals who came to the UK on a skilled worker visa are facing a grim reality – the jobs they were promised do not exist.

Among these individuals is Blessing (name changed to protect her identity), a woman from Nigeria who shared her ordeal with Sky News. Having paid £10,000 to an “agent” in Nigeria for a skilled worker visa, she arrived in the UK with high hopes of working as a carer, only to discover that no job awaited her.

“I should be in a position of helping, not receiving aid,” Blessing expressed with a mix of frustration and helplessness as she spoke anonymously to Sky News in the corridor of a food bank. Her dreams of financial independence and self-reliance were shattered upon realizing that the promised job was a mere illusion.

Blessing recounted her journey, disclosing that she had paid a significant amount to the agent in Nigeria, trusting the promise of a legitimate job opportunity in the UK. However, when she arrived in the country three months ago, her hopes were dashed as she found herself without work and dependent on handouts. The emotional toll has been immense, as Blessing, a diligent and hardworking individual, grapples with the reality of her situation.

Her story is not unique. An investigation by the UK-based news platform has unearthed a widespread issue of abuse within the skilled worker visa system. Middlemen are allegedly profiting from individuals seeking jobs in the UK as carers, exploiting their hopes and dreams.

In Greater Manchester, the Nigerian Community Centre operates a food bank to support individuals like Blessing who are struggling to make ends meet due to false promises. Mary Adekugbe, the founder of the center, expressed her concern over the increasing number of skilled worker visa holders needing support, describing the situation as “shameful.” Many who come to the food bank have skilled worker visas, reflecting the scale of the problem.

Blessing’s plight is just one example of the larger crisis that has emerged within the skilled worker visa system. People like her, who paid substantial amounts of money to secure a better future in the UK, are left destitute, turning to food banks for basic necessities and even resorting to sleeping rough.

As stories of despair and desperation continue to emerge, it becomes evident that the issue extends beyond individual cases. Communities are feeling the strain, as those who come to the UK with dreams of a better life find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and exploitation. Organizations and community leaders are calling for stronger government checks and measures to address the abuse of the immigration system.

In response, a Home Office spokesperson emphasized the commitment to preventing abuse of the immigration system and stated that decisive action will be taken against employers who break the rules.

The UK issued over 170,000 skilled worker visas in the past year alone, with the health and care sector witnessing a significant increase in grants. However, the unfortunate reality is that many skilled worker visa holders are finding themselves without the promised opportunities, struggling to survive in a foreign land.

Airline Operators Consider 100% Hike in Air Tickets for Domestic Flights onSoaring Aviation Fuel, OPEX - THISDAY

AUGUST 25, 2023

Airline Operators Consider 100% Hike in Air Tickets for Domestic Flights onSoaring Aviation Fuel, OPEX

Chinedu Eze As dollar value rises against the naira, coupled with inflation, it has emerged that airfares may rise between N150, 000 and N250, 000 for one hour flight in domestic destinations, which will amount to over 100 per cent price increase. Currently average cost of flight is about N70, 000, however, it was learnt that this may double, following domestic airlines claim that they have been subsidising fares and recording losses in order to sustain air travel in Nigeria.

This week, the Spokesperson for Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, said the high cost of operations, coupled with hike in aviation fuel, could lead to increase in the cost of air tickets, such that air passengers could pay as much as N250, 000 for one hour domestic flight.

He made this known during exclusive interview on Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers. He disclosed that some airlines funds have been with banks because they are seeking for foreign exchange to acquire aircraft and ferry their airplanes for maintenance overseas. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had also said that airfares skyrocketed by 40 per cent from June 2022 to June 2023, but this could be even more, following the recent projection of the cost of domestic flights by the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines. The report indicated there was a month-on-month surge of 4.93 per cent in the average fare paid by air passengers for specific routes and on year-on-year basis, fares surged by 40.22 per cent compared to June 2022, when the average was N56,082.64.

On a regional basis, NBS stated that the North-Eastern region experienced the highest airfare in June 2023, with an average of N80,650.00, closely followed by the South-South at N80,000.00. But then the naira was exchanging N600/$1 to N700/$1 but now it hovers around N850/$1 and airlines indicated they may not continue to subsidize the cost of tickets because of enormous losses they incur, which may eventually drive them out of the market.

Consequently, the airline operators are urging government to take some measures to protect domestic airlines by providing them dollars for the maintenance and acquisition of aircraft, disclosing that the operators have been finding it difficult accessing foreign exchange, which is very critical in their type of business.

Okonkwo who warned that airfares would continue to be on the rise, said: “If you think tickets are expensive, then you probably don’t appreciate the sacrifices made by local operators. If we have to charge the fares, the way the costs are increasing every day, we should be paying not less than N250,000 from Lagos to Abuja.” Okonkwo called for special foreign exchange window for airlines and stressed the need for domestic carriers to access foreign exchange through a designated window facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He also urged the newly appointed Aviation Minister, Festus Keyamo, to collaborate with other governmental bodies to identify and rectify obstructive elements within the system, especially currency speculators who artificially jerk up the exchange rate. “You have naira and you can’t convert it to the dollar. So, the solution to this is for our Minister to understand that we need a special window with the CBN to access foreign exchange,” he said. He expressed concern over the unjustifiably high cost of aviation fuel, attributing the excess charges to speculative practices. He called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited to play its part in stabilising the industry by curbing these practices, disclosing that even the fuel marketers are aghast at the rising exchange rate, which is making it very difficult for them to source for dollars and buy Jet A1.

“There is no reason, no matter the international price of crude oil that the aviation fuel should be delivered to the pump for more than N500. Everything you see on top of it is speculations and I am calling out on NNPC staff to set this country free. The aviation sector should be designated an essential sector,” he further said. Okonkwo therefore advocated for the designation of aviation as an essential sector because of the critical role it plays as catalyst in economic development of Nigeria, noting that without robust financing it would be difficult for airlines to sustain their operation and insisted that government must have to step in and intervene at this time.

Okonkwo also stated that without major maintenance facility in Nigeria it becomes inevitable for Nigerian airlines to ferry their aircraft overseas for maintenance but due to paucity of forex, airlines cannot take out their aircraft due for maintenance and this has inevitably reduced capacity, which consequently increased fares, as available aircraft seats cannot meet demand. The Chairman and CEO of United Nigeria Airlines who commended the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), urged the new Minister not to interfere with regulations, which is a critical area that determines air safety and also canvassed for full autonomy of the regulatory authority, frowning at a situation where workers of NCAA were recruited from the Ministry of Aviation.

He said that the minister should collaborate with other Ministers, especially the Minister of Finance to find solution to currency speculation, which is spiraling the exchange rate. Drawing attention to the industry’s unique challenges, Okonkwo highlighted the currency disparity that local operators grapple with. Earnings in naira must cover significant dollar-denominated expenses, making the industry particularly vulnerable to currency fluctuations.

“The current minister should not interfere with the regulations. We had a very terrible past where the regulatory employees were given employment letters from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. That’s absurd and unacceptable. So, let the regulatory system remain. Also, look into the latest appointments that were made before the end of the last administration,” Okonkwo said.

About two years ago airfares went up to N50, 000 as base fare when a litre of fuel was increased from N180 per litre to N400. Currently a litre of aviation fuel is from N700 per litre and there are indications it will continue to raise, as naira loses value to the dollar. There are also fears that if there is no intervention for these airlines, fares would rise beyond the affordability of average air traveller, and this will also have a counter effect on airlines, a situation that may force them to suspend operation.

Battered national image: Step aside, please…The many troubles of green passport holders - THE GUARDIAN

AUGUST 25, 2023

By Femi Adekoya

From arbitrary airport screenings to lengthy security questioning, the plight of the Nigerian passport holder is unending, so much that even the bourgeoisie can relate when Bosun Tijani, the minister of communications, innovation, and digital economy narrated how he felt embarrassed with the way officials at the Chinese Embassy treated him for holding a Nigerian passport during the ministerial screening. Will Nigerian passport holders ever become proud or earn some respect again? It would take more than nation branding to an intentional foreign policy that puts value on the life of every Nigerian. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.

Bosun Tijani’s experience is not an isolated case. It is the daily reality of an average Nigerian that has been denied opportunities for being a green passport holder. The situation is even compounded by the recent visa restrictions placed on Nigerians by different countries, even from Africa.

In a typical case of when it rains it pours, the rich and ruling class are equally not exempted from the terrible experience meted out to Nigerians. As if the stress of securing a Nigerian passport is not enough, the problems of securing a visa and even affordable travel tickets remain daunting.

Recently, the Chairman and chief executive of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, at the June Afreximbank meeting, recalled his experience of traveling to another African country with a Nigerian carrying a British passport. He said the British passport carrier was granted entry, while the immigration authorities were arguing about granting him entry, whereas he had the money.

Dangote in 2018, also noted that he needs 38 visas to travel within the continent on his Nigerian passport. Many European nationals, meanwhile, waltz into most African countries visa-free. Has the situation changed? The reality is worse with new red tapes being unveiled every other day, with Nigerian passport holders mostly being the target. Seychelles, the only nation where visa-free travel was open to all Africans in 2018- as well as to citizens of every nation, has placed a restriction on Nigerian passport holders visiting for short stays.

Despite the ideals of a United Africa, there are more restrictions than usual. Indeed, freedom of movement has been a longstanding priority among member states, as enshrined in previous agreements such as the 1991 Abuja Treaty. Common passports have already been adopted for several regions, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In 2017, the African Union (AU) launched an African passport, a signature project of former chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. However, the passport is currently available only to senior diplomats and top officials of AU’s 55-member states.

The idea of an African passport dates back a quarter of a century but has failed to fascinate countries that fear an increase in smuggling, illegal immigration, terrorism, and the spread of disease as well as a negative impact on local job markets. With migration, legal and illegal, blamed for recent outbreaks of xenophobia in South Africa, some of these fears seem credible.

Visa-free travel for Africans in Africa could be a logistical nightmare given that some citizens do not have travel documents and others lead nomadic lives. Individual countries may need to enact legislation to adopt the African passport. Few African nations use the biometric data that an African passport requires.

The 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI), which measures the extent to which African countries are open to visitors from other African countries, shows that 10 countries have improved their visa openness score over the past year, even as 47 per cent of intra-Africa travel, requires that African citizens must secure a visa.

The report further showed that 32 countries still require the nationals of at least half of the continent’s countries to obtain a visa before travelling.

Reality, however, has shown that a visa-free continent is far from being a norm, especially as many countries battle socio-economic and political crises. But for many Nigerians, it is worse as the present challenges in the country are often used to assess an average Nigerian traveller.

Countries grant visa waivers by considering several factors, most of which border on security, openness to data sharing, socio-economic markers among others. For Nigerians to enjoy visa-free trips, more needs to be done in fixing the identified issues.

Step aside, please! Racial and religious profiling at airports or during the visa process has become an experience many Nigerians share. But it doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, the unfair and often baseless treatment extends over to foreign students, artists and professionals residing in the western countries as well.

For many Nigerians, the traveling experience was a bit better until Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to bring down a Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 with an underwear bomb. Since then, it has been a downhill for the Nigerian brand and almost everyone that adorns the colour or passport.

The tag that has now been put on the country is a new one for Nigeria. Money laundering? Sadly, yes. Internet scamming? Another sad yes. Drug trafficking? Unfortunately, yes. But suicide bombing? Nigerians are not known to be suicidal, but the reality of recent years appears to defy such a notion.

For a nation just embarking on a rebranding exercise, Abdulmutallab succeeded in putting a stick in the wheel of the Rebranding Nigeria Project, an ambitious image program aimed at projecting a healthy and positive face of Nigeria to the world.

The campaign had been primarily targeted at Nigerians in the interest of achieving a character reorientation and attitudinal change. Late and former Information Minister Dora Akunyili, who started the rebranding programme, was peeved and merely referred to Abdulmutallab as “a stranger” who “sneaked” in and out of the country. A statement from her office says the federal government of Nigeria received news of the bomb attempt “with dismay” and that “Nigeria as a nation abhors all forms of terrorism.”

With an unavailable President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua at the time, Nigeria sank deeper, and its image got even battered. Since then, Nigeria became an easy target for countries to test their foreign policies. Today, many Nigerians suffer unjustified rejection of visas, harassment at airports and intensified screening even for jobs and scholarships.

Guilty by association Bosun Tijani, explaining the reason behind his controversial tweet to the Senate during his screening, said: “I was in the UK, and I was trying to apply to the Chinese embassy because I do not need a passport to other countries of the world.”

He recalled that when he got to the Chinese embassy, they told him that it would take two days to get his visa and he was very excited.

However, he stated that things went South for him the moment he mentioned that his business was based in Nigeria, and it was at that point that he made the tweet.

Tijani noted, “They asked me what I do and that I needed to provide my pay slip. I told them I run my business and they requested my bank account statement, I told them my business is fully domiciled in Nigeria.

“The moment I told them my business was domiciled in Nigeria, the young man told me they had to do a check on me which would take a minimum of two weeks.

“In anger, I tweeted what you read, which was paraphrased wrongly, and now I have a taste of what the youths do to you as well. The tweet you read is just the first part of what you read,” he noted.

He added that the second part read explicitly mentioned, “For us to lift this country, we must find a way to correct our image to project a positive image because I don’t want my two young girls to grow up to experience the same thing.”

Tijani’s scenario affirms the truism that getting a second passport or having dual citizenship does not shield one from the bias and prejudice meted out to individuals on the basis of where they are born or ‘originally from’.

It is not uncommon to see high-performing individuals, especially professionals, athletes and artists get profiled because of where they come from due to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Recently, some Nigerian-born professionals in the United States were also at the short end of the stick with the U.S. Customs Agents at the Dulles International Airport in Washington.  The harassment claims, The Guardian learnt, was not unconnected with currency declaration row, and alleged entrapment of Nigerians departing through the airport.

The United States, under the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (or Bank Secrecy Act), makes cash reporting mandatory for currency and monetary instruments that are over $10,000.

A Nigeria-born scholar, who was a witness to the alleged harassment, described the Customs’ disposition to Nigeria-bound travellers as “demeaning and completely unacceptable”.

He narrated that it is the duty of the airline, immigration, and customs to provide the currency declaration form, and that has been the norm. The airline offers the form at their counters, but “in this case United Airline did not give travelling Africans the opportunity to declare their currency.”

“The main issue is that the security agents will wait until you are ready to board the plane, and like a Gestapo, they will come with their dogs and gloves, singling people out by psychology or looks. They pull them aside with their sniffing dogs!

“Where in the world do you see sniffer dogs rummaging travellers for currency? Have you ever heard of that? Their (Agents’) verbiage is abusive, shouting, and telling us to shut up! What! They can’t do that to any other person but Africans and Nigerians. I can bet my life on that. They are, therefore, entrapping we Africans for abuse. And this is not done to any national that we can see travelling overseas.

“What I don’t understand is the reason for this harassment. I have been travelling for 37 years. Many of us travelling back and forth are citizens and professionals – professors, doctors, lawyers, so we know the law. But regardless of our achievements, in the eyes of the racist guys and organisations over there, we are not supposed to be where we are,” he said.

Another traveller and victim of the airport harassment, Peter, vowed that both the United States’ Customs and United Airlines would be made answerable for “targeting out-bound Nigerian travellers”.

He said: “We are Nigeria-Americans that are coming home to our families in Nigeria. Why are we being singled out for harassment on United Airlines? In my own case, the plane was delayed for some of those passengers to return. They treated them like garbage – going to the customs office, getting searched, abusing them, checking their luggage, digging through stuff, and they used insulting language.

“Imagine CEO of a company that hired over 60 workers being queried for $13,000 in her possession. But these are not criminals, but professionals, who earn in excess of $200,000 to $300,000 a year. It is very disgraceful,” Peter said.

In North African countries, the treatment meted out to Nigerians is not far from what the Western countries do. Sad stories abound everywhere.

International airports have also been accused of applying a different set of standards, with African travellers alleging they experience extra security checks and have to traipse further through terminals to reach their gates.

Many Nigerians have also shared experiences of how they were denied international job opportunities on the basis that they are Nigerians or reside in Nigeria. Most of the denials stem from the negative reputation of the country. Nigeria’s shrinking soft power Soft power is a country’s ability to influence the preferences and behaviours of various actors in the international arena (states, corporations, communities, publics etc.) through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion.

The Giant of Africa tag that Nigeria bandies stems from its contributions to the decolonisation in Africa, especially in Angola, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Indeed, the period covering 1975 to 1979 marked the formal articulation of Nigeria’s foreign policy, and its focus on Africa as a continent that has come of age.

Sadly, things have not remained the same since the last four decades. With Nigeria now missing in major economic alliances like BRICS (referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and G20 that it should traditionally belong to given its potential, it is getting clearer that Nigeria needs to review its foreign policy.

Yesterday, leaders of the BRICS group decided to invite six more countries to join their alliance—Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, ignoring Nigeria. Their membership will take effect January 1, 2024.

To be recognised and properly aligned with global powers, Nigeria needs to up her social, economic, and political ante well beyond the present below par level.

BRICS is an alternative power centre in the international system. It is an assembly of countries desirous of freeing themselves from the prevailing unjust international order in favour of one based on fairness.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has not joined this group because of obvious national fundamentals that are largely in deficit. As some informed observers have posed the question, what is Nigeria bringing to the table given the reality that most of the core countries in BRICS are industrialised? Nigeria’s singular linkage to the global economy is oil, and that has itself become a resource curse. With an OPEC allocation of about 1.8 million barrels per day, the country is barely able to meet the quota in an industry where oil theft is put daily at about 360,000 barrels.

Today, it is not clear what the thrust of Nigerian foreign policy is. What does the country need? What are its projections? it is so vacuous that observers draw on its past policies to hazard a guess about its intentions in the external environment.

This is unfortunate for a country that was once a frontline state in the fight against apartheid South Africa, and which supported the liberation struggles of many African countries that were under colonial rule. It is unfortunate for a country that played a significant role in peace-keeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations. And most spectacularly, it halted the civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone and installed democratic regimes.

Today, Nigeria is sadly saddled with domestic problems that limit its focus on international diplomacy, especially in broader terms as it affects its citizens.

According to a Nigerian Diplomat, Bola Akinterinwa, foreign policy under former President Muhammadu Buhari lacked strategic focus.

“This is evidenced in how Nigerian citizens are being badly treated globally, even by fellow African countries. Incidents reported in countries like South Africa, Dubai and America testify to this.

“During the Muhammed/Obasanjo regime, Nigeria was a force. She held her ground on several issues of national and African interest and the western world and international organisations had no choice but to succumb. However, this can no longer be said about the country. All over the news, we see stories of restrictions by other nations on Nigerians,” he said.

The argument has been that public diplomacy efforts within the realm of soft power should be treated no differently from developing a corporate and marketing strategy of a nation brand.

Sweden’s reputation as a global design capital, the precision of German engineering, and Japanese efficiency, or Italy’s reputation in luxury fashion are perceptions and associations that countries have earned and established for themselves through a history of performance in the field over the years.

Nigeria, the once known big brother and oil giant does not even meet up with its quota among global oil producers due to theft and vandalization.

Robert Ekat, a political scientist, and public commentator, noted that as a former African powerhouse, Nigeria possesses the capacity to advocate for itself and safeguard its interests.

“Importantly, joining BRICS does not entail severing connections with the West. In essence, the nation can concurrently enjoy the best of both worlds. After all, China, a pioneering BRICS member, maintains essential trade relations with the United States. Similarly, Russia, perceived as a Western European adversary, remains a crucial trade partner. In 2020, the EU emerged as Russia’s foremost trade partner, accounting for 37.3 percent of Russia’s total global trade in goods.

“Evidently, the world is undergoing a transformative phase. The West’s monolithic grip is diminishing, yielding to an emerging shift toward multipolarity. BRICS nations have officially surpassed the G7 in their share of the world’s PPP GDP—a trend anticipated to persist. This perspective is corroborated by the India-based Megh Updates platform, one of the world’s most-viewed online information platforms.

“The international landscape revolves around interests, and the time has come for Nigeria to acknowledge this reality and participate proactively. Regrettably, Nigeria’s leaders appear motivated by divergent interests—primarily self-interest. Enmeshed in multifaceted corruption and prioritising regime security, these leaders have failed to make decisions that genuinely favour the nation. This status quo demands disruption.

“A new world order is emerging, and Nigeria must formulate a foreign policy that maximises benefits for its populace. The alternative to not joining BRICS is joining Squad Alliance or G20 — an endeavour confined to wishful thinking. The West does not respect us. Perhaps, we have not behaved in a manner deserving of respect. Joining BRICS will not only present us as shifting in terms of foreign policy ideology but holds enormous potential for tangible benefits for our economy. Nigeria must join BRICS now!”, Ekat argued.

Unfortunately, BRICS appears to have ignored Nigeria going by its decision yesterday. Charity begins at home Respect for rule of law, sanctity of human life, poverty eradication, economic empowerment, and social justice are some of the concerns raised by Nigerians. After all, if Nigerians are not treated better at home, why should anyone offer more?

Former President Muhammadu Buhari had on the international stage, criticised the attitude of some Nigerian youth, saying they were only hustling to get on the gravy train.

Every year, Nigeria witnesses mass exodus of able-bodied men and women, some of whom are professionals across sectors, which constitutes labour loss and brain drain to the country.

Emigration of Nigerians to preferred destinations like the UK and the United States is not a new trend. However, these numbers have spiraled, rising through the roof.

Dissatisfaction with the state of the nation has continued to propel mass emigration of young Nigerians for greener pastures abroad with fear that the situation could further have dire consequences for the socio-economic wellbeing of the country.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, international migrants from Nigeria in 2020 totaled 1.7 million, a substantial rise from 990,000 in 2010. In 2016, Canada granted about 4,400 Nigerians permanent residence. This figure soared to over 15,000 in 2021.

The data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), show that the country recorded 10,180 Permanent Residents (PRs) from Nigeria in H1, a marginal increase of 0.74 percent from 10,105 in the same period of 2022.

Also, latest data from the British government showed that of the top five nationalities granted sponsored study visas, Nigerian nationals saw the most significant percentage increase, up 73 per cent from 33,958 in the year ending June 2022 to 58,680 in the year ending June 2023. This means that 24,722 Nigerians were granted sponsored study visas within the period under review.

The U.S. State Department has confirmed that this year it is issuing more student visas to applicants from African countries than any time in the previous six years.

Of the 393,000+ F-1 visas issued this year to the beginning of August, 7% are for African applicants.

The State Department confirmed that student visa issuance across Africa so far, this fiscal year is up 90 per cent on the same time period in pre-pandemic 2019.

Last year, the U.S. issued over 30,000 student visas to applicants from African countries, which it also said was more than in any of the previous six years.

U.S. embassies and consulates in Nigeria and Ghana issued more student visas last year than in any year in the past two decades, the State Department said.

Higher education and work are the major principal conduits of permanent emigration. But Nigeria’s current realities such as high inflation, unemployment and fragile economic growth have now made it a major reason why its citizens emigrate to other countries for greener pastures.

According to the organised private sector, addressing the prevailing socio-economic challenges will not only stem brain drain but improve the country’s ranking in the comity of nations.

‘Usually it’s packed in August’: UK seaside towns suffer in cost of living crisis - THE GUARDIAN

AUGUST 26, 2023

BY  Joe Middleton

Fri, 25 August 2023 at 1:44 pm BST·6-min read

“Just look at it, this is the middle of the summer holidays,” says Phillip Garnsey, the exasperated co-owner of the Oggy Oggy pasty company, as he surveys an empty high street in Torquay.

Just a few hundred metres up the road in the Devon town, the juxtaposition could not be more stark as families relax on the beach, enjoying one of the first sunny days of August, and paddleboarders make their way through the crisp blue ocean. Squeals can be heard from the nearby funfair as children play on the rides and later beg their parents for ice-creams or candy floss, while young couples browse inviting street food at the market.

However, away from the levity of the seafront, shopkeepers in Torquay told the Guardian about a lack of footfall, decline in the town centre and struggles caused by the cost of living crisis.

Michael Jamieson, the owner of Café Crème, says: “It’s been the worst summer in 14 years. Look how quiet it is for August, usually the town’s packed. June, July, August and May, they’ve all been quiet, super quiet. It’s not just me, it’s everybody, cafes, the clothes shops, souvenir stores, you name it, we are all down, we’re all struggling to pay our bills.”

He adds: “When we’re in season, from April until the end of September, I start serving breakfast at 8am. Now, I’m opening at 9am and hardly anybody is coming. You look outside and it looks deserted, the town.

“Believe me, wait until this winter, it will be a lot [worse], I guarantee you, come March, April, there will be a lot more empty shops, because people are struggling.”

The town centre is already pockmarked with empty shops and the streets are quiet. Ryan Hanlon, the manager of the Cider Rooms, says demand at the sports bar was good but did not compare with the previous year, when the high street was packed “with a sea of people”.

This is the heart of the problem. Last summer, trade was exceptional for seaside towns as people embarked on domestic breaks after the pandemic lockdown, due to restrictions on travelling abroad. But this summer, travel providers and airlines have reported strong demand for foreign trips, with a spike in last-minute bookings due to the wettest July on record in some part of England and Northern Ireland.

Tony Galinos, 74, a professional musician, has owned and operated The Guitar Man music equipment shop in the town centre for the last four years and has seen the area’s decline. “Our turnovers have dropped, conservatively, from 50% to 80%, we’ve got 50 vacant shops on the Torquay high street … Without support from the government, I would say within the next 12 months at least another third of the remaining businesses will close.”

He says these economic difficulties are being faced by seaside towns up and down the country. “It’s everywhere, if you go to Southend-on-Sea, even places like Brighton are suffering.” He adds that trade is “not even close” to what they experienced in the town last year and “80% down”.

Galinos says part of the reason is more people flying to Europe this summer, but that the poor weather in July and early August has also put people off heading to the seaside.

Garnsey says the summer has been terrible for visitor numbers, “at least half down on last year”. But the 58-year-old argues that is not the only problem: “I don’t think there is anything to do down here. If you go to Cornwall there is a bit more … there is nothing much on down here, I don’t think, and the town is very grubby-looking. We have had a lot of holidaymakers say that they wouldn’t come back.”

The most recent data supports the idea that the domestic holiday trend is fading post-Covid. Analysis from the recruitment firm Reed, published by Bloomberg, says that job vacancies in 25 of the major seaside towns have declined significantly since last year.

James Reed, the chair of Reed, said: “Given how heavily reliant many of these coastal towns are on strong summer trading, it is certainly concerning that the usual summer boost in job postings hasn’t materialised. The staycation boom has come to an end.

“Even those in a stronger financial position may opt for a less costly foreign holiday package over a domestic staycation where UK businesses, hit particularly hard by rising costs, have had to hike up prices for consumers. Just by comparing the costs of travelling by road and rail in the UK with the costs of flights abroad, it’s clear why the staycation boom has failed to re-emerge.”

Just over 270 miles away from south Devon, in the popular Welsh coastal resort of Abersoch, Tom Leslie, the owner of the Potted Lobster, says the restaurant is still busy but businesses in the area think its quieter than last year. “People are still coming out and spending, but the spend is more limited. They’ll buy one bottle of wine instead of two.”

Leslie also part-owns a hotel, the Whittling House in Alnmouth, Northumberland, and said occupancy rates were 98% in the domestic holiday boom after the pandemic, but this summer they had dropped to 70%.

After the economy opened up following Covid-19, he said, there were “freakish” high levels of trade due to the specific circumstances around the pandemic, but this could now level out.

The post-lockdown visitor spike bucked a decades-long trend of economic decline in Britain’s coastal communities. A House of Lords report released in July titled The Future of Seaside Towns found such places had “significant potential” but faced a “persistent sense of disconnection” as well as complex social issues, a lack of jobs and deprivation.

Last month, the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said she wanted to “supercharge seaside towns” to boost their economic prospects and create new jobs. If Labour won the next election she promised it would crack down on sewage dumping in rivers and the sea, scrap the current business rate scheme, let councils introduce a holiday lets licensing scheme, and help create new, high-quality jobs through an apprenticeship levy.

Analysis released by Labour at the same time found the economic output of seaside towns had increased by 12% between 2009 and 2019, far below the 20% overall increase in the UK gross added value, a measure of economic output.

Another key issue is poverty. A 2020 analysis of coastal towns published by the Office for National Statistics showed there was more likely to be higher levels of deprivation than in inland towns.

Alan Tilley runs Turning Heads, a community interest company in Torquay that runs a social supermarket offering food to struggling families at lower prices than traditional retailers.

He says demand has increased and every week someone new, who is almost always in paid employment, is asking to use the shop. “I’m astounded about the state of what’s going on,” he says.

Garnsey says not enough is being done to support seaside towns, and his pasty business is likely to close. “We’re finding it tough, but it’s not just because of the lack of visitors, it’s the cost of living going up.

“We’re not the only ones. If you look down the high street at the shops that are shut … It’s such a shame, we have a lovely shop and such fantastic customers, but it hasn’t worked.”

What we know about UK air traffic control failure causing flight delays and cancellations - SKYNEWS

AUGUST 28, 2023

Planes have been grounded and others diverted after the UK's air traffic control systems were hit by failure. Here's everything you need to know.

Air travel in the UK has been disrupted after air traffic control systems suffered a "technical fault" on Monday morning.

The issue was "identified and remedied" around 3.30pm on Monday - but that doesn't mean a swift end to disruption.

Here's what we know so far.

What is the fault?

NATS, the National Air Traffic Controllers said it had "identified and remedied" the technical issue affecting its flight planning system.

"We are now working closely with airlines and airports to manage the flights affected as efficiently as possible," it said in a statement.

"Our engineers will be carefully monitoring the system's performance as we return to normal operations."

The fault had affected the system's ability to automatically process flight plans, which means they had to be inputted manually by staff.

As this cannot be done at the same speed, traffic flow restrictions had to be enforced.

Earlier on Monday NATS said it had been hit by a "technical issue" but said the UK's airspace was "not closed".

They reduced the number of aircraft that could take off and land at a given time to manage flow.

What's happening to flights?

For passengers, the changes to traffic flow restrictions means delays and possible cancellations.

Flights were being held on the tarmac or diverted to airports in Ireland or mainland Europe, travel journalist Simon Calder told Sky News.

"There are hundreds of planes up in the sky heading to the UK," he said - meaning hundreds of thousands of passengers could be affected.

The August bank holiday is one of the busiest days of the year for air travel.

Mr Calder said some flights would be able to land as air traffic controllers switched from digital to "much more analogue" systems, but the rate would be much slower.

How long could the disruption last?

Even if the issue was fixed quickly, the system would likely be in "disarray" for at least the rest of Monday and possibly longer, Mr Calder said.

Aviation analyst and former BA pilot Alastair Rosenschein told Sky News it was "very difficult" to say when things would be back to normal.

But he offered some reassurance, saying the disruption looked to be "delays of hours rather than anything longer".

He said the issues appeared to be a case of "patchy failure rather than total shutdown".

Which airports are reporting disruption?

Airlines have released similar statements while they assess the likely impact of the situation.

Dublin Airport said there were some delays to flights in and out of the airport due to Air Traffic Control issues in the UK

"We advise all passengers due to travel today to check the status of their flight with their airline in advance of travelling," it said.

Ireland's Cork Airport has said the air traffic control issues are causing delays for some departing and arriving flights.

Gatwick Airport has warned cancellations are "likely" and it is "seeing delays", after earlier saying flights were running as normal.

Luton Airport says: "We are aware of an air traffic control issue affecting UK airspace, resulting in disruption to flights.

"We are working with all relevant authorities to understand the full impact of the issue and when normal operations are likely to resume.

"Passengers should check with their airline for the latest status of their flight."

Birmingham Airport says: "We are working to understand the full impacts of the air traffic control failure across UK airspace, and the likely timescales for to be resolved.

"Customers due to fly in or out of BHX are advised to keep a close eye on the latest information from their airlines, as well as live flight data on our website and on screens in our terminal."

Heathrow Airport says it is "working closely" with NATS and other airports to "minimise the impact" on passengers. '

Stansted Airport says it is "fully operational" and is not experiencing any issues.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport warned of disruption, saying: "Whilst aircraft will be loaded on time, some flights may be subject to a delay."

Newcastle International Airport says passengers face "disruption" and "some cancellations".

Edinburgh Airport asks passengers "not [to] come to the airport before checking with their airline on the status of their flight".

What are airlines saying?

Scottish airline Loganair, one of the first to report disruption, said there was a "network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems" on Monday morning.

"Although we are hopeful of being able to operate most intra-Scotland flights on the basis of local coordination and with a minimum of disruption, north-south and international flights may be subject to delays," the airline posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It urged passengers to check its website for updates.

British Airways said it had been forced to make "significant changes" to its bank holiday schedule.

"If you are travelling on a short-haul service today, Monday August 28, please do not travel to the airport without checking the status of your flight, as it may no longer be operating," the airline said.

EasyJet said: "We are providing customers on cancelled flights with the option to transfer their flight free of charge or receive a refund."

What should I do if I'm travelling?

If you're due to fly in or out of the UK today, check the status of your flight with your airline - this is what each airport and airline is currently advising.

If you're already at the airport, keep an eye on display screens.

This article will continue to be updated with all the latest information you need if you're due to travel.

You can also follow our live blog which will have updates on what's going on.

What are my rights if my flight is delayed?

Disruption to air traffic control counts as an "extraordinary circumstance".

That means it is out of the airline's control - so they don't have to offer compensation.

But if your flight is delayed by two hours or more, airlines must offer assistance under UK law.

They have a duty to provide:
• two free phone calls, faxes or emails (often by refunding the cost of your calls)
• free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay (often in voucher form)
• free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

Sometimes airlines may be unable to provide assistance to all passengers, particularly where staff are stretched - which could be the case with the mass delays seen today.

If this is the case, the Civil Aviation Authority says passengers should organise their own assistance and claim the cost back later.

"If you end up paying for things yourself, keep every receipt and do not spend more than is reasonable," its website says.

It cautions airlines are unlikely to reimburse for alcohol or luxury hotels. Some airlines provide guidelines on what counts as reasonable expenses.

Greece Reports More Possible Deaths After Migrant Boat Sinks - BLOOMBERG

AUGUST 28, 2023

BY  Paul TugwellBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Four children died in a group of migrants off the Greek island Lesvos and a woman died near the island of Samos after they tried to cross the sea from neighboring Turkey.

While Greece’s coastguard rescued 19 other people from the group off Lesvos, officials were unable to save the children despite efforts to provide first aid, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told reporters Monday. They included girls aged 14, 8 and 11 months and an 8-year old boy, he said.

The tragedy took place at 6 a.m. on Monday in Turkish territorial waters, Marinakis said. 

“It’s imperative that the wretched networks of smugglers who exploit vulnerable people are taken out at their root,” he said.

In a separate incident, the coastguard conducted a search and rescue operation early Monday off the Samos after detecting 37 people during a patrol, Shipping Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis said in a statement. 

A woman and baby among the group were found unconscious and officials immediately performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on both. While the baby survived, the woman didn’t, the minister said. 

Migration has become a difficult subject for Greece’s government, particularly after more than 500 people drowned off the southwest coast in international waters after the vessel they were traveling on capsized while trying to reach Italy from Libya. 

(Updates with details of Samos rescue from fifth paragraph.)

$1.5b foreign carriers trapped funds: Nigeria, IATA, others weigh options - THE NATION

AUGUST 28, 2023

Foreign carriers operating flights into African countries, including Nigeria and the trade body of global airlines, are weighing options to mitigate the effects of blocked funds amounting to over $1.5billon funds trapped on the continent from unremitted revenue from ticket sales.

The development has not only stopped some foreign carriers, including Emirates Airlines from flying into Nigeria and other destinations, but has triggered cuts in flight frequencies to some African destinations.

Investigations by The Nation showed that while financial regulatory bodies, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Ministries of Finance as well as Aviation and Aerospace Development, are working out interventions to stave off further diplomatic/bilateral damage, the trapped funds have occasioned, discussions are underway to end the matter.

To drive the agenda, IATA is reaching out to the governments of some African countries to consider measures that will liberate foreign carriers blocked funds, which started since 2018, with a significant amount held back in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Part of the intervention is how agencies will advise the government on the best practices to clear the backlog, which has built up to $1.5 billion in Africa.

As of January, this year, airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria increased to $743,731, 027 from $662 million in January 2023 and $549 million last December.

 As of June 4, 2023 blocked funds of foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have risen to $812.2 million.

IATA warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds constitute a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.

According to IATA, the industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47 per cent from $1.55 billion in April, last year to $2.27 billion in April, this year.

It also said five countries account for 68 per cent of blocked funds with Nigeria topping the chart.

IATA declared: “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets.

“Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”

The association urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate the funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

 The backlog of international airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria, experts said, would send a strong message against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria.

Experts said potential investors were reacting from the plight of the airlines that they would not be able to repatriate their funds from Nigeria when the government is expecting investments in the concession of some of its prominent airports.

Investigations by The Nation also showed  that IATA and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) were joining the Focus Africa initiative, aimed at maximising the contributions of aviation to development across the continent by better serving passengers and shippers.

Under Focus Africa, private and public stakeholders are committed to delivering measurable improvements in six critical areas of safety, infrastructure, connectivity, finance and distribution, sustainability, and skills development.

 IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil Al Awadhi, said: “AFRAA will strengthen the Focus Africa coalition as we work to increase aviation’s role in Africa’s development. This has enormous promise. The continent is home to the world’s most rapidly growing population but accounts for just two per cent of air passenger and cargo transport activity. The road to realising aviation’s potential will be long. But with the strong partnerships committed to Focus Africa, we can, and we will realise the needed change.”

For the AFRAA Secretary General, Abderahmane Berthé: “AFRAA and IATA share a common vision, the development of a safe, secure and sustainable aviation industry in Africa that facilitates business, trade, and tourism and contributes positively to Africa’s economic growth and development. AFRAA fully supports and encourages collaboration in tackling the challenges and threats to the sustainability of Africa’s air transport sector.

 “By joining IATA and the other Focus Africa partners we can help propel this initiative which will deliver widespread social and economic benefits.”

IATA and AFRAA are also enhancing their collaboration by renewing a joint work program which includes: promoting regional air connectivity by working together with governments to support the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

UK Flights Snarled on Bank Holiday After Air-Traffic Failure - BLOOMBERG

AUGUST 28, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- UK air traffic suffered significant disruption on Monday following an air-traffic control system outage that caused massive delays and cancellations on one of the busiest days this travel season.

The NATS national air-traffic service said it’s “currently experiencing a technical issue and have applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety,” according to a statement. “Engineers are working to find and the fix the fault.” 

As a result of the failure, planners weren’t able to automatically process flight plans and were forced to revert to manual input, meaning they couldn’t manage the same volumes, NATS said in a separate release. Heathrow and Gatwick airports, London’s busiest airfields, both experienced hundreds of delays and dozens of cancellations.

While the UK air space hasn’t been closed outright, NATS said it has had to apply flow restrictions to maintain safety. Some international airlines were also affected, with Deutsche Lufthansa AG canceling flights from Frankfurt to Heathrow and Dutch carrier KLM circumnavigating the UK. 

The glitch coincided with on one of the most active extended weekends, with the UK off on a national holiday on Monday and summer-vacation travelers returning home. Some 3,049 flights were due to depart UK airports on Monday, with about the same amount arriving, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

The failure occurred on a system that logs each aircraft’s flight plan, which allows controllers monitoring flights to know where planes are headed and other important data, according to a statement by NATS. The separate technology the company uses to track aircraft positions appeared to be functioning.

The issue had some similarities to a Jan. 11 outage in the US that prompted a halt to all departures for a brief period and led to about 10,000 delays. In that case, a Federal Aviation Administration computer that logged safety alerts covering such things as runway closures was shut down after contractors damaged an underlying database.

Swanwick Site

Eurocontrol, which regulates air traffic for the region, said the UK is experiencing “very high individual delays” because aircraft movements have been regulated at low rates. 

NATS operates its systems from the Swanwick operations room about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of London that manages the airspace over England and Wales up to the Scottish border, as well as lower-altitude traffic to and from London’s airports.

“Currently there is no indication of when a solution for the failure will be available so no improvements for flights entering UK airspace are foreseen in the near future,” Eurocontrol said.

With delays and cancellations piling up, returning to normal service can take several days because aircraft will be put out of position. Ryanair Holdings Plc said it will be forced to delay or cancel “a number of flights” to and from the UK on Monday.

Flight Refund

Data from Flightradar24 showed London Heathrow Airport had 70 canceled flights and 245 delays so far on Monday. Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport had about 236 delayed flights and 41 cancelations. Some planes were being held on the ground at both hubs, according to Flightradar24’s maps.

EasyJet Plc said affected customers can transfer their flight free of charge or receive a refund.

Logan air, the Glasgow-based Scottish airline, wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that a “network-wide failure” of air traffic control computer systems in the UK may cause delays to its flights. British Airways said it’s working closely with NATS to understand the impact of the technical glitch. 

Swanwick opened almost six years late in 2002 and at least 30% over budget after repeated software glitches. Since then, the UK has experienced several major system outages, including one in 2014 that forced NATS to restrict the number of flying aircraft.

--With assistance from Alan Levin.

(Updates with additional information on NATS workaround from second paragraph.)


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