Visitors from six nations, including India, would have had to put up £3000
One of the most unpopular immigration proposals of the Conservative-led coalition government in the United Kingdom, which envisaged subjecting visitors from six “high-risk” Commonwealth countries to pay a surety of £3000 for a visa to the U.K., has been withdrawn, a Home Office spokesperson confirmed on Sunday. The scheme, to have been introduced on a pilot basis this month, would have made it mandatory for persons on visitors’ visa from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana to pay the deposit, which would be forfeited if they did not return home.
“The government has been considering whether we pilot a bond scheme that would deter people from overstaying the visa. We have decided not to proceed,” a Home Office statement said.
The spokesperson refused to answer questions on the reasons behind the sudden turnaround.
The proposal was mooted in this March by Home Secretary Theresa May, who followed up on the announcement with some highly unpopular public campaigns — one of the most hated being the Home Office poster vans to immigrant areas that exhorted illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest.” All this to meet her target of reducing immigration figures by 1,00,000 this year.
The scheme’s introduction was viewed as the government’s way of upstaging the United Kingdom Independence Party that is being seen as building its support on an anti-immigration platform.
Media reports suggest that the scrapping the proposal was because it would have been blocked by Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democratic party and Deputy Prime Minister.
The government also realised that the scheme would deter investment and the flow of genuine tourists from these countries. In fact, even large brands, like Harrods for example, criticised the plan on the grounds that it would deter luxury shoppers — particularly rich Nigerian tourists who flock to Harrods — from coming to the U.K.
The scheme caused outrage in the countries that it would have impacted. It was condemned with equal force by immigrant groups within the U.K. — from the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to the large coalition of groups that united under the banner of the Indian Workers Association. Its anti-visa bond campaign had the support of Veerendar Sharma, Labour MP representing Southall and Ealing.
Welcoming the scrapping of the proposal, the IWA said in a statement: “The move ... recognises the enormous benefit to Britain from foreign investment. From official OECD figures, Indian entrepreneurs invested £35 billion in U.K., while the U.K.-based companies invested £20 billion in India. A net gain of £15 billion in Britain’s favour. This investment is most noticeable in the motor, engineering, food and steel industry [which are] creating jobs for people in Britain.”