Cable presses UK immigration chief to drop security bonds

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The UK's business minister Vince Cable has said that he will urge the Home Secretary Theresa May, who is responsible for the UK's immigration regime, to drop a plan to make some applicants for UK visas to pay 'security bonds' of up to £3,000 before receiving a visa. Mr Cable told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 11th September 2013 that the bonds would provoke 'outrage' in countries where some nationals would be required to pay the bond.

Mrs May announced the scheme in June 2013. She said that in November 2013, a pilot scheme would be launched. The details of the scheme were not set out but she said that some applicants for UK visas who were considered to pose a high risk of overstaying would be required to pay a bond of up to £3,000 before they would be able to receive their visas. The pilot would only affect people from six 'high risk countries'; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana.

The bonds were to be imposed on some applicants for visitor visas but Mrs May did not stipulate whether holders of Tier 1 visas (for 'high value migrants') , Tier 2 visas (for skilled workers) and Tier 4 visas (for students) as well.

Security bonds provoke angry reaction in Nigeria

Although the security bond scheme may have been popular with some right-wing elements of the UK press, it played extremely badly in some of the 'high risk countries' affected. In Nigeria in particular, the reaction was ferocious.

The UK's ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Andrew Pocock, was summoned to the office of Olugbenga Ashiru, the Nigerian foreign minister, to be told of the Nigerian government's displeasure. Nigeria threatened that a planned bilateral trade deal between the two countries was under threat.

In India too, news of the bond was greeted with anger. The Indian trade minister Anand Sharma asked for 'clarification' from Mr Cable's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Senior Indian business figures said that the bond would damage trade with the UK.

Bond scheme is 'not a policy'

On 1st September 2013, Dr Pocock told a Nigerian newspaper that the bond scheme was 'not a policy' of the UK government and said that there was therefore no existing plan to introduce the scheme.

He added that, even if the bonds were introduced, it would only be a pilot scheme and it might not be permanent. He added that, even if it was made permanent, only 'very small numbers' of applicants would be involved.

Mr Cable told the BBC that he intended to ask Mrs May to reconsider her approach to the bonds because they would damage Britain's relations with other countries. Mr Cable is a member of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the UK's Coalition government.

MP announces intention to step down because of security bonds

He was speaking shortly after a Liberal Democrat colleague, Sarah Teather MP, had announced that she intended to stand down because of her 'dismay' at some of the policies that the Liberal Democrats had voted for in government.

In particular, Ms Teather said that she had been depressed by the bond scheme, which had originally been proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Mr Cable said that he had 'some sympathy' with Ms Teather's position but said that she had 'overreacted'.

Original plan was intended to enable people to come to UK

Mr Cable said that the original scheme, as proposed by Mr Clegg, had been intended to allow some applicants who had applied for UK visas but had been refused, to come to the UK.

Mr Cable said that Mr Clegg's scheme would have allowed these failed applicants to apply again and to pay a bond. It was hoped that with the payment of the bond the UK's immigration authorities would be more likely to grant the visa.

But, Mr Cable said, the Conservatives, the senior partner in the Coalition and the party of which Mrs May is a member, had taken this benign policy and turned it into something more 'negative'.

Bonds interpreted in 'negative way' by Conservatives

Mr Cable told the BBC 'the way some of our colleagues in the coalition interpreted it was in a much more negative way; of saying that everyone who comes here should pay this very large bond and that is what Sarah reacted against.

'In government certainly I and Nick and others will be arguing for a much more sensible and flexible approach to the bond, which is of course not policy and still only under discussion'.

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