Hasan Suroor

LONDON: The Home Office is to investigate allegations that "corrupt'' immigration officials are issuing visas to "attractive'' young women in return for sexual favours.

The immigration minister Tony McNulty acknowledged that these were "serious'' allegations and said they would be fully investigated though he insisted that he had "confidence'' in the professionalism of immigration staff.

The allegations, published in The Sun newspaper on Tuesday, were reportedly made by a former official at the immigration headquarters in south London Anthony Pamnani who said he quit his job in "disgust'' at the way vulnerable girls, desperate to stay on in Britain, were exploited by "corrupt'' officials.

Mr. Pamnani claimed that he saw his colleagues routinely give their phone numbers to attractive applicants.

"One girl came in and told us (that) an admin officer had visited her flat and... she got indefinite leave to stay,'' Mr Pamnani alleged.

In another case, he claimed: "A Lebanese girl came into the office in a foul temper asking for one of the guys who worked there. He had recently moved to another department. She told us that he'd promised to give her an extension to a visa and that they had slept together at her flat in Brighton."

Mr. Pamnani also alleged that "ugly'' immigrants became a butt of jokes among some officials.

"If an immigrant was ugly, several officers would leave their desks to go behind a screen and laugh at her passport picture. The photo would be copied and pinned up on a wall'', he claimed.