The Campaign against Racism, comprising UK-based organisations of Indian origin, and led by Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall, took their protests to 10 Downing Street on Thursday. The forum submitted a memorandum with 20,000 signatures to Prime Minister David Cameron opposing the proposed visa bond scheme that is likely to be introduced as a pilot this November.
The scheme, if introduced, will require a visitor to the UK from India and five other Commonwealth countries to pay a deposit of £ 3000 in order to get a six-month tourist visa. The government sees this as a way to discourage illegal immigrants from coming into the UK.
The memorandum calls for throwing out the “racist” proposal that applies only to visitors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana. “There is no scientific immigration data of visitors who overstay their permitted visa stay in the UK to brand these six countries as High Risk,” the memorandum notes. It sharply criticises the government’s plans to “use people’s money to earn interest in these “austerity times” or to “lower its current account deficit”.
The Campaign Against Racism is contemplating legal action against the scheme if the government does not withdraw it. Addressing a meeting of representatives of groups under the Campaign Against Racism at the House of Commons on Thursday, Harsev Bains, General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association said that it will be contested on grounds of being racially discriminatory. “We want the government to persuade us that this is in favour of the country. We are not asking for special privileges, just a level playing field, equality and dignity.”
The meeting was held in the background of fresh and tough immigration legislation announced by the Home Office.
The new rules have been designed to “reduce the pull factors which encourage people to come to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here”.
The number of immigration decisions that can be appealed is to be cut from17 to four; foreign “criminals” will be deported first and their appeal heard later in cases where “there is no risk of serious irreversible harm”; restrict the rights of immigration detainees to apply for bail; have private landlords check the immigration status of tenants; require overseas students and temporary migrants to contribute to the to the National Health Service; require banks to check for immigration offences before opening bank accounts; and clamp down on those seeking immigration through marriage.