British visa pilot scheme “discriminatory”

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A pilot scheme to be introduced by Britain’s Home Office, which will see “high-risk” visitors to the UK being forced to pay a $4 740 refundable bond for visas, was recently denounced as “discriminatory” by Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Olugbenga Ashiru.

The initial targeted countries are Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. British government data shows that citizens of these countries applied for more than half a million visas last year alone.

Trade implications

Last month, Ashira called in the British High Commissioner to express the “the strong displeasure of the government and people of Nigeria” and to make a formal demand that Britain renounce the proposal. Ashiru warned the move would “definitely negate” the two country’s commitment to double trade by 2014. Nigeria is the highest populated country in Africa, representing a huge market of more than 160 million people. British government figures indicate 101 000 Nigerians were issued visas in 2012.

Britain said in a statement this week that it will go ahead with the pilot scheme despite the outrage, charges of discrimination and warnings of retaliation. The statement did not say when the pilot would start but cautioned that Britain could apply the scheme in the future for all visas and any country.

Immigration cuts

The Home Office says it hopes the bond system deters overstaying of visas and recovers costs of foreign nationals using public services like hospitals and schools.

Immigration was a key issue in David Cameron’s election campaign for his Conservative Party. Cameron has pledged to cut net immigration from 252,000 people a year in 2010 to 100,000 a year by 2015.

Another British government move that has come under heavy criticism recently has been a campaign targeting people who overstay their visas. Billboards were placed on two vans for a week in six of London’s boroughs. Their message said: “In the U.K. illegally? Go home or face arrest.”

Leaflets with the same message will be distributed for a month. The Home Office statement said the visa bond “is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain.”