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Fee to enter? Britain’s immigration crackdown continues

Published time: March 07, 2013 12:11
A Bulgarian shows his UK visa in front of the British embassy in Sofia (AFP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

A Bulgarian shows his UK visa in front of the British embassy in Sofia (AFP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

Immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a fee, which would only be reimbursed when they leave UK soil, and if they haven’t used health services. The UK is taking an increasingly hardline stance, despite a recent sharp decline in immigration.

The UK is seeking to impose financial bonds “as a further deterrent to reduce non-compliance by high-risk nationalities,” a source close to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Daily Mail. Additionally, migrant family members already residing in the country would be made to pay a sum of thousands of pounds. It would be returned upon leaving the country.

If the reform goes through, immigrants entering the country for living and work purposes would have to put down the money to guarantee they wouldn’t ‘drain’ the country’s financial resources. Such resources would include things like non-emergency care from the health service. However, if British welfare was used by migrants entering the country, they would risk losing their money.

The entry fee would additionally be used to make sure immigrants didn’t outstay their visa  (and fining them if they do), consolidating an existing act. The Immigration and Asylum Act (1999), already gives the government the right to make immigrants front some money upon entering the country, which can be retained by the government should they remain in the UK after the expiration of their visa.

Individuals from two or three countries were tagged as “high risk”, and it is at them that the scheme is targeted. The UK will not be allowed to impose the charge on immigrants from EU countries who comprise the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone.

Bulgaria and Romania had hoped to gain the same freedom to enter the UK as other EU nations, and were expected to apply to join the zone in a meeting on Thursday. However, their entrance needed to be granted through a unanimous vote, and Germany announced their plan to veto the move on Monday.

“There will be no vote, and no decision,” a source in the EU's current Irish presidency told AFP on Wednesday. “Several nations have reserves or concerns.” As a result, residents of the two countries could be among those impacted.

Net migration into Britain has fallen by a third, from 247,000 thousand migrants in June 2011 to 163,000 in 2012, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Conservatives said they would clamp down on migrants, saying they were taking advantage of Britain's “soft touch,” which he was determined to quash.

On Wednesday, the Labour party leader Ed Miliband promised to take a heavy hand with immigration. He stated that the party had got it wrong in the past, saying “millions of people are concerned.”

“Low-skill migration has been too high and we need to bring it down,” he said.

The Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for the closure of student visa loopholes on Thursday, saying that many overstay or abuse (e.g. working instead of studying), despite the party denying accusations that they are moving to the right on migration.  

The British Conservative party was shunted into third place in the Eastleigh by-election in February. The UKIP candidate, who beat the Conservatives, is a member of a party described by the Tory government as packed with “loonies and closet racists.”  

It has been suggested that parties are adopting a stronger stance because of UKIP’s reputation for being heavy-handed on immigration.

Labour MP Diane Abbot, issued a recent warning to her party not to “spiral downwards” by veering to the right on immigration as a result of the by-election results.