Visitors from six countries including India, will be required to furnish a bond for £3,000 for six-month visa
The controversial visa bond policy, by which visitors to the U.K. from six commonwealth countries including India, will be required to furnish a bond for £3,000 for a six-month visa, may have for the time being been overshadowed by other contentious anti-illegal immigration measures taken by the U.K. government at home, but it has certainly not been abandoned.
This despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to downplay the issue after the international outcry that the move elicited when announced this June.
The argument that it will be used selectively to target only those visitors who are perceived as “high risk” has convinced none of the affected parties, and, indeed, a pilot has been proposed that “focuses on overstayers and examines a couple of different ways of applying bonds”, said Home Secretary Theresa May in a recent press release. “The pilot will apply to visitor visas, but if the scheme is successful we’d like to be able to apply it on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country.”
Calling it the “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”, she also said that “In the long run we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.”
While British media reports say that the pilot will be introduced in November, a home office spokesperson, while confirming the pilot to The Hindu, said “we don’t know when it will be introduced, but will announce the date in due course.”
The move has stoked fears that it is racially motivated and will be used to keep visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria out. An unaffordable bond will deter thousands of legitimate visitors from these countries — family members of U.K. citizens who regularly visit, as well as tourists.
“A measure like this only shows that the Home Office operates on a policy of mistrust,” said Guy Taylor, a spokesperson for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and independent national charity, in a conversation with The Hindu. “It also violates the freedom of free movement.”
Using ‘pilots’ as a way of testing the waters on immigration issues has already seen some very angry backlashes in London. Recently, a pilot scheme to apprehend illegal immigrants resulted in widespread condemnation and ridicule, with even the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democratic party and Business Secretary Vince Cable coming down heavily on the form the anti-immigration crackdown took.
Vans with large hoardings that had the screaming message “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”, that reminded many of the anti-immigrant fascism of the 1970s, were driven around the boroughs of Barnet, Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Brent and Redbridge — areas that are supposedly where illegal immigrants are concentrated. The hoardings also carried a number where people could text in for “free advice and help with travel documents”.
“I texted a message to the number and was given options of answering, apart from English, in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi,” said Mr. Taylor. “So you can draw your conclusions.”
The government is simultaneously conducting stop-and-search operations in public places to apprehend illegal immigrants. A Home Office release has claimed that 130 “immigration offenders” have been arrested across the country. The immigration policy of the government is expected to come up for legislation this autumn.