Concerns that power enabling home secretary to ‘blackmail’ countries into accepting returns could provoke tit-for-tat visa suspensions targeting British citizens
Proposals contained in amendments to the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill would allow Priti Patel to slow or suspend visa services, or increase charges, based on her “opinion” and any matters she “considers appropriate”. Some have described this as a form of blackmail.
Other government amendments to the bill, revealed on Friday, include introducing the use of controversial X-rays on asylum seekers accused of lying about their age, in order to “scientifically” assess how old they are.
Campaigners branded the powers to suspend visas “simply oppressive” and there are concerns that they could spark tit-for-tat diplomatic retaliation affecting British citizens wanting to travel for work, holidays or to see family.
La loi, being added to the bill more than three months after it was published, would apply to failed demandeurs d'asile, foreign national offenders and anyone deemed to have no legal right to remain in the UK.
le Bureau à domicile has not said how many people they are unable to deport because of a lack of cooperation, or what nations are presenting an issue.
It said the powers would “incentivise other countries to cooperate with the UK government to remove those who have no right to be in the country”, but presented no evidence that would be the case.
The home secretary said: “The UK has a proud history of being open to the world but we rightly expect our international partners to work with us to remove those who have no right to be in the UK, such as dangerous foreign national offenders.
“It is unfair on UK citizens and taxpayers that pressure is put on our public services by foreign nationals with no legal right to be here. ”
Minnie Rahman, interim chief excusive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the “immoral and manipulative” plan could mean countries are “blackmailed” into accepting returns, with visas for their citizens at risk if they refuse.
“This would mean workers, tourists, performers, students and academics could be refused entry to the UK if their states don’t sign return deals with Britain. This will put our relationships with other countries at risk, and is likely to lead to more discrimination against Black and Brown nationals looking to travel to the UK," elle a ajouté.
“It’s time government stopped making the world a smaller place by demonising migrants and refugees, and started turning its attention towards the glaring winter crisis this country is facing.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said “penalising” someone – whether by refusing their application or increasing the fee – because the Home Office had an issue deporting somebody else was “simply oppressive”.
“It should not be given yet more arbitrary power – Parliament should throw out this measure along with much else in the Nationality and Borders Bill," il ajouta.
The law would create a sliding scale of penalties for targeted countries, from imposing an £190 surcharge on applications to come to the UK, increasing visa processing times or suspending visas entirely.
It applies to all kinds of visas, including for visitors, study and settlement in Britain, but the block could be waived for individuals in “exceptional circumstances”.
The draft law says the power can be used where “the government of the country is not cooperating in relation to the return to the country from the UK of any of its nationals or citizens, who require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but do not have it”.
Issues include countries’ willingness to identify citizens and provide documentation, or allow people to be transported there by the UK.
The home secretary will take into account existing return arrangements, the “extent of the lack of cooperation” and reasons for it. Any penalty would be reviewed after two months.
The law also makes it a criminal offence for asylum seekers to reach the UK in small boats or by other irregular means, and provides a legal defence for Border Force personnel if they kill refugees during planned push-back operations at sea.