Britain`s Home Office sends mixed signals on visa bonds
London: Britain`s Home Office was on Monday at the centre of a volley of confusing statements around the proposed 3,000 pounds visa bonds for visitors from six "high-risk" countries, including India.
While some reports indicated that a pilot scheme involving a refundable 3,000 pounds cash bond for visitor visa applications from the six Afro-Asian countries originally shortlisted was to go ahead as planned, a Home Office spokesperson insisted "we are not confirming the list of countries at this stage and our original statement on the issue stands".
Besides India, the other affected countries are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana. The pilot scheme is expected to run for a year from this November before being extended to all visa types.
"We`re planning a pilot that focuses on over-stayers and examines a couple of different ways of applying bonds. The pilot will apply to visitor visas, but if the scheme is successful we`d like to be able to apply it on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country," the Home Office said in a statement, without confirming the list of countries being targeted.
"This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain. In the long run we`re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services," it added.
The proposed plan, which classifies India as a "high-risk" country despite the so-called "special relationship" and "strategic partnership" between India and the UK propagated by British Prime Minister David Cameron, had triggered widespread outrage among ministerial circles in Delhi.
Meetings between British and Indian officials have been taking place to address Indian concerns on the scheme, which was described as "an affront" by commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma last month.
Cameron had reportedly expressed his opposition to the idea soon after and sent the idea back to the drawing board following India`s protests.
However, it would now seem that the Home Office is all set to bulldoze the policy through and the confusing messages may just be a way to try and manage the resulting uproar from the affected countries.
The latest reports come even as another Home Office scheme is faced with possible legal action. An advertising campaign that targets racially mixed areas of London with mobile billboards warning illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest" is being challenged as causing "tension and confusion" by a refugee group.
A Home Office spokesperson said the initiative had received several positive responses, which would be assessed after the pilot ends today.
The department has been under increasing pressure to bring down migration figures, one of the Conservative-led government`s key elections pledges.
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