Has overseas anger sunk Cameron’s plan to charge certain immigrants bond money?

11:54 am - June 26th 2013

by Natalie Bennett    

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From a British perspective, this news story looks like a familiar model: government floats trial balloon that it hopes will become policy in Sunday papers, it is shot down by Tuesday night, and it is remembered at most as an incidental footnote in political history.

That’s the obvious fate of the proposal, presented with the backing of Theresa May and Nick Clegg in the Sunday Times (paywall), to force visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana to pay a £3,000 bond before they can get a visa, to be repaid after they leave the country within the limits of its term. These states were labelled “high-risk” for over-stayers. (Labour had twice suggested similar schemes when it was in government, but they never came into being.)

David Cameron last night “slammed the brakes on the proposal”, in the terms of the Financial Times (partial paywall), on the basis that he doesn’t want to undermine “his growth agenda or the ‘open for business’ message he delivered on a recent trip to India”.

Outside the UK, in particular in the countries affected, however, the impact will, however, I’m afraid last a lot longer than the Sunday papers. That was clear to me after an appearance on Indian television last night (from London) to speak about the visa plan, when I was almost buried at times under giant gushes of anger, driven a sense of humiliation and ingratitude, from representatives of the business community, commentators and the host.

That’s widely reflected in the Indian media and blogosphere – the well-known FirstPost calling for matching retaliatory action against UK visitors. Discussion on the television show focused particularly on how the British economy could be damaged, with India being the fifth-largest source of foreign investment into Britain, and its home firm Tata the largest private-sector employer. “It seems that Britain is no longer interested [in trade],” The Economic Times quoted an unidentified CEO as saying.

Unsurprisingly, there seems to be similar anger in Nigeria, Ghana, and I’ve no doubt the other states.

I had a clear message that I hope got through to what I was told was up to 100 million viewers on The Newshour – that despite the stance of the British Government and Labour Party, both chasing after UKIP voters with astonishing desperation – the visa bond did not reflect the general view of the British public.

I was clearly stating that the Green Party is utterly opposed to the idea of the bonds – and more broadly to the government’s approach to immigration, and its attempts to drive down number of immigrants based on a single blunt target of a immigration cap, despite the damage the tactics employed are doing to industry and business, to our universities and colleges, to tourism, to the family life of many Britons, and to our international reputation.

On the specific bond idea, I pointed out that Canada had considered a similar proposal and discarded it as discriminatory, as it undoubtedly is. I understood why the Indian commentators to whom I was speaking were focusing on their own nationals’ treatment, but the selection of six predominately non-white Commonwealth countries for this special treatment – not the US or Australia or any Latin American state deserves to be highlighted.

The story by tomorrow in Britain will have disappeared. Its impact around the globe will take a lot longer to fade.

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About the author
Natalie Bennett is leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Green party ,Westminster

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Reader comments

This is what I dislike most about political debate today. There isn’t any really. It’s all idology and spin. Those people in India have no right to be ”angry” if the UK tries to slow down the rate of immigration, and particularly tries to stem illegal immigration and visa overstayers etc. Were they shown reports like this one from the BBC website or do they know about it?

They came to Britain illegally in search of a better life, but the reality turned out to be far removed from what they dreamed of.

The BBC has spoken to illegal immigrants who find themselves living amongst rats and rubbish in makeshift garden sheds and garages. They want to be deported back to India, but many are trapped in a bureaucratic no man’s land without any documents.

Jagdeesh pulls away a piece of cardboard revealing a tiny hole in a concrete wall. He invites me to climb through, declaring: “This is my home, come in.”

Or this other BBC page, about Southall and the black market in all kinds of dodgy services – and people from Punjab known as Faujis.

A team of BBC News reporters spent months undercover trying to find out and exposed a network of criminality that involves and feeds on hundreds of young, male Punjabis living illegally in Southall, west London.

These men – who call themselves fauji, a Punjabi term for army foot soldiers – are surrounded by forgers, criminals and ruthless employers.


If you’re going to discuss an issue like this, it might be helpful to see what it is a government might be wanting to stop.

Btw, India shoots Bangladeshis trying to cross their border illegally.

Human rights groups allege that more than 900 civilians, many of them illegal immigrants or cattle smugglers, have been shot dead by the Indian border guards over the last decade.

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