UK confirms Nov kick off date for controversial £3,000 visa bond

BY: Isaac Yeboah

Trucks, each displaying a huge poster with a number for migrants to text if they wish to return to their country of origin, were driven around London Britain’s Home Office, yesterday, confirmed that it will demand a 3,000-pound ($4,630) refundable bond for visas for “high-risk” visitors from six countries including Nigeria — a pilot scheme that has brought warnings at home and abroad that it will damage trade.

Britain said in a statement Monday that it will go ahead with the pilot scheme despite the outrage, charges of discrimination and warnings of retaliation.

The Home Office in a statement, yesterday, said: “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 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 said.

It added that: “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 proposed plan, which classifies Nigeria as a “high-risk” country despite the so-called “special relationship” and “strategic partnership” between Nigeria and the UK propagated by British Prime Minister David Cameron, had triggered widespread outrage among ministerial circles in Abuja.

For now, the targeted countries are Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Government data shows citizens of those countries applied for more than half a million visas to Britain last year.

There have been meetings between British and Nigerian officials to address concerns on the scheme. Cameron had reportedly expressed his opposition to the idea soon after and sent the idea back to the drawing board following Nigerian and Indian protests.

Reacting to the visa bond policy yesterday, a retired Nigerian diplomat, Ambassador Dahiru Suleiman queried the benefits of Nigeria’s membership of the Commonwealth, if Nigerian  citizens travelling to another Commonwealth country had to be subjected to pay bond for visa.

Ambassador Suleiman, who served in many duty posts abroad, lamented what he described as discriminatory policies from one commonwealth nation against another.

Speaking in a chat with Vanguard, yesterday, in Abuja, the retired envoy urged the Nigerian government to review its membership of the Commonwealth, if the United Kingdom  insists on implementing the controversial policy to impose a £3,000 Visa bond on Nigeria visa applicants to the UK.

The UK had reportedly unveiled plans to impose a £3,000 Visa cash bond for first time visa applicants from Nigeria and other selected countries of the Commonwealth, which are regarded as “High Risk Countries”

He asked, “what has Nigeria benefited so far for being a member of the Common Wealth. Nigeria should call for review, we need to put our house in order.

“Every country has the right to impose policies but that policy should not be discriminatory.

“These countries the UK government is talking about, are they the only countries that over stay in the UK? There are so many of them why just these selected countries that were colonised by the UK government.

“Why cant they monitor the movement of every body, than imposing £3,000?  that is not fair. Frankly speaking, Nigeria appear to be very poor, but I must tell you that even if it is 5,000, Nigerians will still go there.”

Source: Vanguard Nigeria