UK plans tough border controls
VISA: To hand over returnable cash bonds
LONDON — Britain is considering introducing much tougher border controls and may oblige visitors from “high-risk” countries to hand over a returnable cash bond to deter them from overstaying their visas, its deputy prime minister said yesterday.
“We need an immigration system that is zero-tolerant towards abuse,” Nick Clegg said in his toughest speech on the subject yet, talking of a “crisis of public confidence” in the immigration system.
Clegg said he had asked the home office or interior ministry to look at starting a pilot scheme for the cash bonds. A similar system is used by Australia.
He did not say which countries he regarded as “high-risk” or how much the bonds would be, but a government source said the sum would be variable and could be at least £1 000 (R14 000).
The issue of immigration is sensitive, not least because the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government says it is still anxious to attract foreign nationals to help it compete in what it calls “a global race” against surging economies like China and Brazil.
But opinion polls show many Britons want the current system tightened and are concerned about the expected arrival of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians next year when European Union freedom of movement restrictions on those two countries are lifted.
The country’s three main political parties are also under growing pressure from the increasingly popular UK Independence Party (UKIP) which talks tough on immigration and has spoken of Britain’s inability to police its own borders.
UKIP wants Britain to leave the EU, in part so it can better control its borders, and came a surprise second in an election for a parliamentary seat this month, piling pressure on the government to respond.
Clegg, who is also the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, told an audience in London the government would increase the cash penalty for employers who hire illegal immigrants from £10 000 per worker to a much higher unspecified figure.
He also spoke of trying to move away from government-funded translation services for immigrants, saying it might be better to refer them onto English-language courses in time and to stop paying for translation if they failed to “stick with” courses.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to deliver a speech on immigration on Monday. — Reuters.
An aircaft prepares to leave Leeds Bradford airport in Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom, during a heavy snowstorm yesterday. Heavy snow is causing disruption to transport and schools across the UK in the coldest March the country has seen for decades, with no sign of the warm spring weather that Britain enjoyed this time last year.