British and US officials on Wednesday denied a report that the US was seeking ways of imposing entry restrictions for visiting Britons of Pakistani origin, following a spate of UK bomb plots involving citizens with links to Pakistan.
The report in The New York Times, quoted unnamed British officials as saying that the US had put several options on the table, including a cancellation of the existing visa waiver programme, which allows British tourists to visit without a visa, or a requirement that British Pakistanis would have to apply for visas.
The US homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, had raised the issue with the British government in recent months, the article said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The New York Times story that the UK and US are considering requiring British citizens of Pakistani origin to apply for US visas is incorrect. It does not represent UK government policy nor would it be an acceptable proposal.”
“...We will oppose any measure based on broad categories of religious, ethnic or other criteria, and will continue to
emphasise the importance of the current risk-based approach.”
The report has outraged many Muslim leaders. They said the US proposal was demeaning and unacceptable. Mohammad Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow, said every British citizen must have the same rights. Most other Muslim MPs have stressed upon ministers to reject the move.
A think-tank member Bruce Riedel pointed out the case of Omar Khyam who was convicted on Monday as leader of 7/7 plotters. “His is the classic case of UK-Pakistani connection that Al Qaeda has focused on since 9/11. His UK passport gives him international mobility. His training at a camp run for Kashmiris by Pakistan’s ISI gives him expertise. Al Qaeda gives him direction.”