Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister of Britain, has revived a controversial twice-shelved idea to demand 'bail-like' cash deposits from visitors from 'high-risk' non-European countries that could include those from the Indian sub-continent.
Clegg did not name the targeted countries in his speech to the liberal Centre Forum thinktank on Thursday. But The Independent newspaper said they were expected to include Pakistan, other countries in the Indian sub-continent and some in West Asia but not those from the White Commonwealth - Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Under the proposal, visa applicants from these countries will be asked to furnish a "kind of cash guarantee" which would be returned when they leave Britain. A figure of at least £1,000, rising to several thousand, has been cited.
The scheme is aimed at those who come with a legitimate visa but then do not return. However, critics point to three problems: the government has no figures for overstayers to furnish evidence; the proposal will not tackle the flood of European immigrants; and it will cost the government far more than £1,000 to remove an overstayer.
Clegg said the bond should be "well targeted," adding, "Visiting Britain to celebrate a family birth, or a relative's graduation, or wedding should not become entirely dependant on your ability to pay the security bond."
But Labour's Keith Vaz, chairman of the parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, gave a withering assessment, saying the last government shelved the scheme twice because it was "unworkable, impractical and also discriminatory."
"Mr Clegg would do better to let us have some accurate estimates of how many Romanian and Bulgarian citizens are due to arrive later this year."
The move comes amid an unprecedented rise in the fortunes of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which takes a hard line on immigration. A UKIP spokesman said, "He (Clegg) can't stop anybody coming from the European Union, which is our major problem. And they're not going to have a bond."