Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Visas for non-EU visitors - another reason to be proud to be British?

One thing that annoys me more and more about this government is its seemingly never-ending ability to make laws that are designed to fix the failings in earlier legislation yet merely achieve new areas of doubt and uncertainty whilst demonstrating their underlying authoritarianism.

The new proposals for visas are designed to prevent non-EU visitors from overstaying, an entirely laudable idea, but are only really necessary because of the crisis in the Home Office. The decision to abolish passport checks for those leaving the country means that we have no effective way of knowing whether or not people have overstayed, leading to banner headlines claiming whatever scary number of illegal immigrants suits the newspaper concerned. I particularly enjoy questions from Conservative spokespersons demanding to know how many overstayers there are - is it only obvious to me that if we knew how many there were, we'd probably know who they were and could more easily deal with them?

But enough of that, the solution is to place more restrictions on those coming to this country to visit families, enjoy our beautiful scenery, study in our educational institutions or whatever. And here I declare a personal interest. My family is scattered across the globe, in the United States, Canada, Dubai, India and New Zealand. I've enjoyed visiting them over the past four years, but would quite like to have the opportunity to see them here. If these proposals go ahead, I may well be called upon to lodge a bond which can be withheld if they overstay. If I can't lodge that bond, they probably won't be allowed to come. The fact that my family all have lives, and pretty good ones at that where they are now, appears to be irrelevant. And thus, in such ways, are the innocent punished for the sins of the few, and for the general incompetence of government.

I potentially suffer from the loss of opportunity to see my family. The tourism industry suffer from the loss of revenue that might otherwise have been gained. In turn, India will probably retaliate, shortening the length of any visa I might be able to obtain, and the fallout will impact on our relationship with those developing nations likely to prove influential in the future.

Naturally, visitors from white, developed countries will find it easier to obtain visas, a sign perhaps that such people are more welcome than those from poor, less-developed countries. And naturally, when they come here, the latter can expect more attention from immigration officials and law enforcement agencies, as will ethnic minorities in the indigenous population, as they will 'look foreign'.

For heavens sake, Gordon, when are you going to learn that, whilst doing something properly takes longer and is less likely to garner friendly headlines in the Daily Mail, it will at least prevent you from being lambasted every time an overstretched civil servant screws up?


Lee Griffin said...

Over on my site I had a good look into the consultation document too. (Find it here)

One thing that strikes me as odd is the government is stating that only some 0.35% of tourists each year even use more than 3 months of a visa anyway...so what issue exactly are they solving with this?

But totally agree with you on your view on the problems, is this just an attempt to look "tough" once more?

Tristan said...

Still the debate is framed in terms of 'illegal immigration'.

One easy way to eradicate illegal immigration - just let people in the country to work, visit, live, whatever.

Of course, the 'free market' Tories would be up in arms, as would the socialists.
Its the logical liberal conclusion though. Free movement of people and free trade would do more to equalise living conditions across the world than anything else (and unilateral free trade/immigration) would not harm us, currently we're throwing rocks in our own harbour.

Toby Philpott said...

It's yet ANOTHER stealth tax on those of us who are married to non-EU citizens. I've held off blogging on this issue due to the leadership election result. I'm going to share my views as well.