Britian’s Immigration Minister Liam Byrne will visit India in February to explain a new proposal that sponsors in the United Kingdom would have to put up a cash bond of £1,000 per person before relatives from non-European Union could enter the country.
The cash would be forfeited if the visitor failed to leave or abide by visa restrictions. This proposed visit by Bryne to New Delhi has led the Indian community here to believe that these new moves, including reducing the visa period from six to three months, are basically directed at Indians.
Lord Navnit Dholakia, while asserting that he would oppose the Bill when it came to the House of Lords, told HT, “It is sad that the Government is now introducing a bond to ensure that visitors return to their homeland. The impact will be devastating on elderly parents and relatives.
“The Government’s own body, the Commission for Racial Equality had said this kind of bond is tantamount to indirect discrimination against the people of the Commonwealth. The system was rejected by the earlier Labour Government and to bring it now is pandering to extremists in this country,” he argued.
Keith Vaz, who was the only Asian-origin Immigration Minister, and a Labour MP who had opposed previous proposals, said, “I am not opposed to the principle of controlling immigration but I am against the methodology of the application of the bond system. If a family in my constituency wants to invite 10 relatives and friends for a wedding how will they fork out £10,000?”
Virendra Sharma, Labour MP from Ealing, which includes the pre-dominantly Indian-populated Southall, Hounslow and Osterley, told HT, “The move is unfortunate, disappointing and discouraging. It gives the message that Indians are not free to travel to this country. The move violates principles of entry into this country.”
The average families are livid. “It is aimed at Indians - after all why is the Honourable Minister going to India? To explain what and to whom? Yes, Indians have been the scourge of British society", said Krishna Bhatia, sarcastically.
Interestingly, visitors from India, some 212,000 last year, were the highest spenders, £139 million, more than the £123 million spent by the Japanese.
A consultation document, published on Tuesday, which outlines proposals for sponsored family visits suggests that these should be restricted only to British citizens who have full residency rights in Britain.
The consultation will close on March 10, 2008, and this is why Bryne is set to go to India in February. He said that by “next spring we'll check everyone's fingerprints when they apply for a visa; now we're proposing a financial guarantee as well — not for everyone, but where we think there's a risk”.