Nigeria slams British visa plan as 'discriminatory'

2013-06-27 08:51
Abuja - Nigeria on Tuesday blasted as "discriminatory" a British plan to force visitors from the west African country and some other selected Commonwealth nations to provide a cash bond before they can enter Britain.

Foreign minister Olugbenga Ashiru expressed Nigeria's displeasure at the plan when he met in his office the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, a foreign ministry statement said.

The minister described the policy "as not only discriminatory but also capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family," it said.

The Sunday Times newspaper had reported that from November, a pilot scheme would target visitors from Nigeria, India and Pakistan plus Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Ghana.

Visitors aged 18 and over would be forced to hand over £3 000 (R46 000 at R15 for a pound) from November for a six-month visit visa.

They will forfeit the money if they overstay in Britain after their visa has expired.

Ashiru told the British diplomat that Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, "has a responsibility to take appropriate measures to protect the interest of Nigerians who may be affected by the proposed policy, if finally introduced," the statement said.

The British High Commission in Nigeria after the meeting issued a statement quoting Pocock as saying that his government planned to undertake "a very small scale trial of the use of financial bonds as a way of tackling abuse in the immigration system (which occurs when some people overstay their visa terms)."

He said that the details of the pilot scheme were still being worked out and if it goes ahead in Nigeria, it would affect only a very small number of the highest risk visitors.

"The vast majority would not be required to pay a bond. Those paying bonds would receive the bond back, if they abided by the terms of their visa."

More than 180 000 Nigerians apply to visit Britain each year and about 70 percent or around 125 000 of these applicants are successful, he said.

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