Arabs to be charged to enter UK

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Indy Politics

Just a week after a controversial plan to make Asian visitors pay a bond of up to £10,000 to enter Britain was dropped, senior government sources say visitors from North Africa will be targeted instead.

Just a week after a controversial plan to make Asian visitors pay a bond of up to £10,000 to enter Britain was dropped, senior government sources say visitors from North Africa will be targeted instead.

The scheme, planned for autumn, is intended to cut the number of foreigners who enter Britain on temporary visas, then disappear. But the latest move will create further discord in the Labour Party, with many of its MPs already angered by the Government's stance on asylum-seekers.

Barbara Roche, the immigration minister, had originally announced that the scheme would apply to visitors from the Indian sub-continent, but fierce opposition from British Asians led her to back down. Now, government sources say the bond will be switched to people arriving from countries including Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Applicants considered a "borderline" risk will be asked to hand over the money, which will be forfeited if they fail to leave on a set date.

Yesterday, Home Office officials said the scheme was intended to help people wanting to visit relatives in Britain, for example, but who would not usually be eligible for a visa because it was thought they might attempt to stay illegally.

Bill Morris, leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union, described the plan as "repugnant" and accused the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, of creating a climate of "fear and loathing" on asylum.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "I've never seen any evidence that bonds like these are a good idea, but if you are going to have a pilot scheme then you should have one for each continent, including Australia and South America."

John Tincey, a spokesman for the Immigration Service Union, said the scheme would encourage criminal activity.

"The Government seems to be saying that if people can come up with the money then they should be given a chance, when they have already decided that these people shouldn't be given a visa in the first place. The scheme could lead to a rise in activity by criminals who already lend money to people to help them to enter Britain illegally."

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