£10,000 to visit your relatives
The government is to demand a bond of up to £10,000 from people from the Indian subcontinent who want to visit relatives in Britain. This will effectively bar people from visiting their families or attending funerals and weddings.
The Home Office has picked people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for a pilot scheme for the bonds which will begin in the autumn. But visitors from the Indian subcontinent make up only 5 percent of foreign entries into Britain. Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says, 'We can be confident this will not be extended to overstaying or absconding citizens of the US, Canada or Australia, who together account for over 50 percent of all (non EU national) visits to the UK each year.'
The scheme means that British citizens will have to find up to £10,000 to see their family. How many working class families in Britain could afford that kind of money if they wanted a relative to come from abroad? The scheme brands all visitors from the Indian subcontinent as potential illegal immigrants. But there is no evidence to show that people from this area of the world 'overstay' at a higher rate.
Right wing smears
Lithuanian asylum seeker Robratas Grabys hanged himself in Harmondsworth Detention Centre last month. The death follows a damning report by the chief inspector of prisons on the state of Rochester jail, where many asylum seekers are locked up.
The chief inspector, Sir David Ramsbotham, called the jail 'filthy', 'impoverished' and a 'disgrace'. He said that the authorities were treating asylum seekers as 'unconvicted criminals'. Despite all this the government will continue jailing asylum seekers. It will open up a new detention camp near Cambridge which will house whole families of refugees.
The Tories and the right wing press are again scapegoating immigrants. The Sun ran a headline last week saying, '100,000 Refugees In Queue To Live Here...264,000 Patients In Queue For NHS Beds'. The press screamed about figures showing that the number of people seeking refuge in Britain increased in 1999.
But this is not because Britain is a 'soft touch'. Refugee numbers increased across all of Europe last year. Nick Hardwick from the Refugee Council says, 'The figures are higher than last year, but so are the instances of human rights abuses, political persecution, internal conflict and turmoil raging around the world.' Refugees from Kosovo head the list of those seeking asylum. In June last year half of all refugees across Europe came from the former Yugoslavia. Most went to Germany and Switzerland.
War and abuse
A total of 7,180 people claimed asylum in Britain in December 1999. The 'top five' countries were:
- Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (effects of war) 795
- Sri Lanka (continuing civil war) 755
- China (human rights abuses and suppression of national minorities) 385
- Somalia (civil war) 385
- Afghanistan (repressive Taliban regime) 380
Are the Tories and the Sun seriously saying these hundreds of people have fled their countries for no reason?