The foreign and Home Offices have reportedly “advised” British high commissions and embassies to use their discretion in issuing visas to those coming to the country for work. This was hinted at by a very reliable source on Thursday, but there was no official comment from the departments concerned.
The report gains credence with the news that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering introducing restrictions on radicals (offenders) travelling to Pakistan and other countries, in an attempt to stop their going abroad for terror training. Brown is said to be particularly concerned by the case of Mukhtar Ibrahim, one of the four 21/7 convicts who travelled to Pakistan. A senior security source believes Ibrahim and Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the 7/7 attacks, may have attended the same training camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Authorities acknowledge that even if the proposed measure had been law, it would not have stopped Ibrahim from going to Pakistan as his previous convictions were for minor offences. Thus, travel to some countries could be restricted and those convicted of less serious crimes than terrorism could be banned from travelling. “We may need to go wider than terrorist offences,” Brown’s spokesman said.
The British government is also faced with the problem that the country is now regarded as a haven for terrorists. Most terrorists caught here have, apart from the Pakistan link, homes here. The focus so far was only on the trips to Pakistan. But the government is being forced to look closer home. “It may be a knee-jerk reaction but it is justified. The security of the country is crucial,” said a diplomat belonging to one of the countries likely to be affected by the “advise”.
A top immigration consultant told HT he had heard the US “has been pressing for checks and restrictions on those having both Pakistani citizenship and a British passport”.