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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

British MPs asks PM whether India in loop on visa bonds

PTI  London, July 21, 2013
First Published: 17:47 IST(21/7/2013) | Last Updated: 21:52 IST(21/7/2013)

A high-powered British parliamentarycommittee has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking if he was consulted over a controversial plan to introduce a hefty 3,000 pounds cash bond for 'high-risk' visitors from India.

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Under the pilot scheme announced by British home secretary Theresa May last month, citizens of India, along with that of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana and Sri Lanka could be asked to pay a 3,000 pounds cash bond in a bid to prevent them overstaying their visa.

The House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC), a group of cross-party MPs chaired by British-Indian Labour MP Keith Vaz, has been looking into the proposed visa and immigration system which will be enforced from November this year.

"I would be most grateful if you could clarify if your government has been consulted by the UK government on the bonds pilot. As part of the committee's remit we have an ongoing inquiry into the work of UK visas and immigration," wrote Vaz, who has previously categorised the scheme as "unfair and discriminatory".

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma has raised India's concerns over the issue with his British counterparts while on a visit to the UK soon after the policy was announced.

Since then, the UK government has stressed that the scheme will affect only a handful of high-risk individuals and will be fully re-assessed at the end of the pilot in 2014.

Responding to a similar letter form HSAC, Nigeria accused the UK of racial discrimination.

The Nigerian ambassador to Britain said his country is "not favourably disposed to the proposal as it will affect a good number of Nigerians visiting the UK, even in spite of assurances to the contrary."

"We view it as discriminatory and targeted at only non-white members of the Commonwealth," ambassador Dalhatu Sarki Tafida said.

Meanwhile, the HASC is conducting its own inquiries into the workings of Britain's visa and immigration system.

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