UK plans new visa conditions for Kenyans
Britain is set to impose tough new immigration rules that will make it more expensive and difficult for Kenyans seeking to travel to the United Kingdom.
Selected Kenyans applying for visitors’ visas will be required to deposit a refundable £3,000 (Sh400,000) bond with the British High Commission to serve as guarantee that they will return home once their visas expire.
The plan, part of a wider scheme by the British Government to rein in illegal immigration, is set for piloting in November.
Kenya is among six countries in Africa and Asia that have been identified as “high risk”, meaning they are the source of the highest number of illegal immigrants to the UK.
Others on the list are Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, according to the Financial Times of London. All are former British colonies and have retained strong ties with the UK.
Last year, the six countries accounted for more than half a million visa applications, according to data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics.
It shows that 31,000 Kenyans visited the UK in 2012 compared to 135,000 Nigerians who visited the European country over the same period. Kenyans who travel to the UK are mainly students, people visiting relatives and businessmen.
Reached for comment, the British High Commission in Nairobi said the UK Government was concerned about visitors who abuse the immigration system by overstaying their visas and is looking at ways of tackling this.
“This includes the introduction of a pilot scheme to require financial bonds from high-risk visit visa applicants to incentivise them to return home before their visa expires,” said High Commission spokesman John Bradshaw.
But he stressed that final decisions have not been taken on the design of the pilot or locations.
“Any scheme will be highly selective, focusing only on visa applicants who present a risk of overstaying. It will not apply to all visitors from specific countries,” he said.
In June, the Guardian reported that the plan, which was announced by Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May in March, was in limbo after Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, refused to sign it.
The paper said Mr Clegg wanted the amount reduced to £1,000 (Sh130,000). Sources in London told theSunday Nation that Kenya has indeed been fingered for the pilot project.
The UK Government was, however, “working round the clock to mute the proposal” especially since the dust is yet to settle on the recent UK ban of miraa (khat), added the source.
The Indian and Nigerian governments have formally protested the visa proposal, saying it goes against trade agreements between their countries.
Attempts to get a response from the Foreign Affairs department in Kenya were futile. Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohammed did not answer our calls or reply to our text messages. Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho did not honour his promise to return our calls.
Mr Bradshaw said the UK Government was committed to delivering a visa service which attracts the brightest and the best to get to Britain.
“We welcome legitimate visitors to the UK,” he said. “But overstayers are a drain on Home Office enforcement resources and undermine the integrity of the immigration system. By eliminating the bogus, we shall be able to make the visa system more user-friendly for the genuine.”
But the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has urged his government to scrap the plan, saying it sends out the “wrong message”. “It is very disappointing. It has not been agreed across the coalition and it seems to send the wrong message that Britain is closed for business,” Mr Cable told the Financial Times.