The United Kingdom’s plan to run a pilot scheme to secure financial bonds of ₤3000 or Rs 2.7 lakh from selected visitors of six countries, including India, has led to allegations of racial discrimination.
A day after the plan was revealed in The Sunday Times, the UK Home Office confirmed that it would run the project for “selected visitors” for 12 months from November.
“The purpose of the pilot is to test the effectiveness of bonds as a deterrent against visa abuse such as overstaying. It will operate in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana,” the British High Commission said in a statement on Monday.
The observers pointed out that the bond on visitors from India would negatively impact the optics of bilateral relations, which already seem isolated compared to India’s increasing ties with other European nations.
On Twitter, users were overwhelmingly negative about the proposed measure. “It is totally racial discrimination,” said a Gurgaon-based sales and marketing professional Rajeev Grover.
Some said the proposal would impact the UK more than India as Indian investments have grown faster there than British investments here.
A Twitter user, with the handle NomadWanderer, echoed the popular sentiment. “I just feel this UK visa bond rather discriminating, racist N stupid move (sic). Given the fact how UK’s economy is tanking. It’s a shot in the foot,” she said.
Many said India should also come up with similar curbs for British visitors.
Describing the move as highly discriminatory and very unfortunate, the Confederation of Indian Industry said it would impact the special relationship between India and UK.
“We share the UK’s concern on illegal immigration, but surely there are other more effective and non-discriminatory ways to put a check on it,” said the CII statement.
The plan seems to be more directed by the UK Government’s domestic agenda to curb immigration and the ruling Conservatives trying to pull a fast one over the UK Independence Party, which has an anti-immigration platform.
Diplomatic sources defending the pilot project claimed it would “affect only a few hundred” people, described as the “highest risk applicants”. It was claimed that the six countries were chosen on the basis of the volume of visa applicants and proportion of visa term violations.
“The pilot will be highly selective and focused on the highest risk applicants -- we will not require all visitors from the selected pilot countries to pay a bond. The number of bonds issued during the pilot will be limited,” said the High Commission statement.
It added that while the bond for adults was ₤3000, children below 18 years would be exempted from the bond.
“The bond payment will be returned if the visitor returns home after their visit visa has expired and within the time period specified by their visa,” said the statement.