Paywall UK: Nick Clegg announces tough new regime on visas
Visitors from 'high risk' nations to be asked for deposits of £1,000 or more
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 22 March 2013
Foreigners visiting Britain from certain countries will have to put up “security bonds” costing thousands of pounds to deter them from overstaying their visas, under new proposals.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, today announced plans to bring in the Australian-style deposits for visitors from “high risk” countries, to be repaid when they leave the UK.
Although a list of such nations has not yet been drawn up by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), it is expected to include Pakistan, other countries in the Indian sub-continent and some in the Middle East. The move could run into controversy if the list does not include “white Commonwealth” nations.
Mr Clegg, who chairs the Cabinet’s Home Affairs Committee, has asked the Home Office to run a trial “security bonds” scheme by the end of this year. The bonds would cost at least £1,000, rising to as much as several thousand pounds for visitors from the countries deemed to pose the highest risk.
In a speech toughening the Liberal Democrats’ stance on immigration, Mr Clegg said that “visa overstayers” are the major part of UKBA’s enforcement work.
Describing the bonds as a “powerful new tool” he said: “The challenge isn’t just stopping people coming into Britain illegally, it’s about dealing with individuals who come over legitimately but then become illegal once they’re already here.”
Mr Clegg added: “The bonds would need to be well-targeted – so that they don’t unfairly discriminate against particular groups. The amounts would need to be proportionate – we mustn’t penalise legitimate visa applicants who will struggle to get hold of the money.”
The Liberal Democrat leader accepted that visiting Britain to celebrate a family birth, a relative’s graduation, or a wedding, should not become entirely dependent on the ability to pay a bond.
“I would want a system that is welcomed by legitimate visitors. Rather than place a great burden on them – done right this would speed up the application process, giving UKBA greater confidence about people’s intentions, allowing them to make better, faster decisions,” he said.
Mr Clegg has also asked Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to double the maximum fine for unscrupulous employers who hire illegal immigrants as cheap labour. He wants it to rise to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The Liberal Democrats have been seen by some voters as “too soft” on immigration, including some of their natural supporters. In a significant repositioning of his party, Mr Clegg called for a “tolerant Britain” that is “zero-tolerant of abuse”.
“I’m determined we lay the foundations for an immigration system that embodies this nation’s instincts and its values: our openness and tolerance on one hand; our sense of fair play, on the other,” he said. “The Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of that. We want to stay a tolerant Britain, and to that end we will be zero-tolerant of abuse.”
Denying that he is trying to “outflank” the Conservatives or Labour, he insisted there should not be an “arms race of rhetoric” and “low populism” on immigration.
However, a different message on the sensitive issue was given last night by Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary. In an interview with Parliament’s The House magazine, he attacked the Tories’ target of cutting net migration to less than 100,000 a year, saying it is not the Coalition’s policy.
Mr Cable, who has clashed with Ms May over the target, said it was “unattainable” without “enormous damage” and was only achievable if the Tories “increase the number of British people emigrating”. He said Indian and Chinese people believed the UK had a “Britain is closed” sign.
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Pornhub star Mia Khalifa receives death threats after being ranked the site's top adult actress
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...
£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...