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Home Office critics line up following visa deposit U-turn

CRITICISED: Home Secretary Theresa May (PA)

HOME SECRETARY Theresa May's U-turn decision to ditch the £3,000 visa deposit scheme continues to draw reaction following the Liberal Democrat threat to block the controversial proposal that effectively left it dead in the water.

The proposals, announced by May in June, would have targeted nationals of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, making them pay a £3,000 deposit for a six-month visa as part of the Home Office’s strategy to deter overstayers.

But the scheme was scrapped last week when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg threatened to block it. May is now being criticised for presiding over an immigration policy that appears to be “in chaos” after two pilot schemes were scrapped within weeks of each other.

The secretary of state was forced to admit in Parliament recently that the ‘Go home’ van campaign had failed.

Though the Liberal Democrats have taken credit for the scrapping of the scheme, it was Clegg who first suggested a visitor bond in March, saying there would be “zero tolerance” on overstayers.

However, he later threatened to block it if it was applied in an “indiscriminate way.”

Under his plans, it would only have applied to people from “high risk” countries who had been refused a visa through the normal route.

But outgoing Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, Sarah Teather, described the idea as “hostile to foreigners” and should never have been proposed. She said: “It was a bad idea when Labour tried to bring it in 2000 and then again in 2008, and nothing has changed to alter that.

WARNING: Front page of The Voice in July

“Not only would applying it only to visitors from certain countries have been clearly discriminatory, it would also have been completely unworkable. It would have prevented legitimate visitors who want to visit the UK from entering the country, while potentially helping those who want to flout the immigration laws by making visas purchasable.”

Bimbo Folayan, chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK), said: “Every country should have border controls and we encourage Nigerians to obey immigration laws and to get the right type of visa before they travel.

“But ‘Go home’ vans and visa bonds are playing in the hands of racists and encouraging intolerance and I am very happy that these schemes were scrapped.”

David Hanson MP, Labour's Shadow Immigration Minister, said the Home Office immigration policy was not addressing illegal migration and effective border management. Instead, he said it only managed to alienate foreign investors.

He said: “After ad vans and texts to the wrong people, it seems David Cameron's Government can't get anything right when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

Theresa May is all over the place and presiding over an immigration policy in chaos.”

Migrants Rights Network policy director Ruth Grove-White has described the efforts of the Home Office as a waste of time.

She said: “Government focus would surely be better spent on the less dramatic but much more important business of actually making Home Office processes work properly, including addressing structural issues relating to irregular migration including under-resourcing and staffing, unreliable decision-making by officials and lack of proper data collection on entry and exit from the UK.”

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