Comment: Discriminatory, immoral & damaging to British interests – just another Theresa May policy
You can tell a lot about Theresa May by the prices she puts on things. Back when she was fixing the income level at which Brits were entitled to bring over a spouse from overseas, she pegged required earnings at £50,000 for those with two children. That's twice the average income, but still below her own salary. The Lib Dems talked her down.
Now she wants a £3,000 deposit from anyone visiting Britain from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria or Ghana – or, for shorthand, non-white Commonwealth countries. Again, it seems it will be Lib Dems talking her down. Clegg supports immigration bonds but wants the figure to be around the £1,000 mark.
Even that would be prohibitive. But May's suggested level would rule out all but the very richest ever visiting the UK. Let's call a spade a spade: May is trying to ban visitor visas for non-white Commonwealth nationals.
The Home Office says the deposit is designed to prevent overstaying. Of course, overstaying is a problem with non-South Asian and African citizens as well, but they are not subject to the new measure. This measure is strictly for non-white people. Furthermore, there is no evidence that £3,000 is an accurate reflection of the costs of overstaying. It is being set purposefully higher to discourage visitors.
The listed countries all have large communities in the UK, who typically invite family members over for weddings and other events. That will be a thing of the past. Who could afford to pay that bond several times over, even as a UK worker? The Home Office is basically barring a large cross-section of non-white Brits from bringing family over to visit them.
For British Pakistanis, this is part of a long and despairing trend. Their family are more-commonly-than-not refused visas when they try to visit. When they marry, they are often unable to bring their wives over to live with them. The immigration system discriminates against them every step of the way. But after a terrorist incident they are expected to stand up en masse and swear allegiance to Britain. They are discriminated against and then told they must satisfy Tebbit's cricket test.
I don't know how they put up with it. It is only because of the generosity of their temperament that British Pakistanis retain any loyalty to this place at all. Our politicians demand integration and then implement policies which actively discourage it.
But May's plans also target Indian visitors, and that is where her moral failings become economic ones.
The deposit system has caused barely a ripple in the UK, apart from an article in the Sunday Times and the Financial Times. In India, it has garnered rather more interest. The Confederation of Indian Industry branded it "highly discriminatory and very unfortunate". The press know exactly what it is and the impact it will have on their readers. It is the Indian middle class, many of whom have relatives here, who are worst affected.
Not content with hammering down the number of Chinese and Brazilian tourists and business visitors, the Home Office now feels the economy would benefit from sabotaging our relationship with India. What kind of Indian worker would move to the UK when it entails an effective ban on visits from his family? What kind of student would study here, knowing the mean-spirited limitations on her lifestyle after university? What kind of firm would locate offices here, aware of the damage it would do to its employees' family and social life? And what are the wider emotional effects, the unmistakeable sense that Britain is treating India as a problem rather than a partner?
When David Cameron became prime minister he branded the UK and India the 'special relationship'. It is. Despite our historic barbarism, Indians typically recognise the benefits of colonial rule along with the horrors. Not least among those benefits are the legal and political system it enjoys, and a civil service which manages to provide cohesion and continuity to a country so multifarious it really should not be able to exist.
India is in the ascendancy as Britain continues to experience stagnation and decline. And yet instead of leveraging the good feeling of this remarkable country, we introduce prohibitive restrictions on its citizens.
What if India imposed a reciprocal measure? How many gap years would be ruled out by a £3,000 deposit? Those gap years – much mocked, and sometimes rightly so, for their 'finding myself' new-age narcissism – nevertheless allow young Brits to experience one of the most dense and fascinating societies on earth in a relatively safe environment.
Indians have never been too fond of these badly dressed, dreadlocked young people, roaming around trying to buy hash. They certainly don't need the money which they do not bring with them. Why shouldn't India impose a restriction on something that means something to us? It's the least we deserve.
The foolishness of our immigration policy does more damage to this country every day. It hurts our trade relations, damages our civil liberties, knocks our economy and hammers our education industry. Worst of all, it paints an image of Britain as a cold and mean-spirited place. The Home Office insists the deposit is just a pilot and it will only be rolled out to other visitors if it's successful. We might question exactly what their standard of success entails.
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