Defying protests, the British government said. Monday it will go ahead with a pilot plan to curb illegal immigration by demanding visitors from six of its ex-colonies post a cash bond to obtain visas. An email from the Home Office to The Associated Press confirmed that the plan would focus on countries with a high proportion of visa over stayers and examine ways of using the proceeds of forfeited bonds to ease the burden illegal immigrants put on public services.
The department confirmed reports that began circulating last month that the bonds could amount to 3,000 pounds ($4,600) per visitor, but said the sum hadn't been fixed nor a date set for implementation. The six countries targeted are Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as well as Nigeria, whose population of 160 million is Africa's biggest, and whose protests have been strongest. When reports of the plan emerged, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru called in the British ambassador last month to express "strong displeasure" over the "discriminatory" policy.
He suggested it could harm trade between the two countries that grew nearly five-fold from $2.35 billion in 2010 to $11.57 billion last year, with the value of Nigerian imports doubling. The British have sought to calm the outcry, with the British ambassador to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, saying "the vast majority would not be required to pay a bond." He said about 70 percent of the 180,000 Nigerians applying annually to visit Britain get visas. India protested last month as British Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting, causing him to declare that a final decision had not been taken.
Immigration, legal and illegal, is a sensitive political issue in Britain, especially with the unemployment and austerity measures brought on by the economic crisis. It was a big issue in his election campaign and he has pledged to cut net immigration from 252,000 a year in 2010 to below 100,000 a year by 2015. The Home Office statement said the visa bond "is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands