For the last two months I've been campaigning against this Tory-led Government's £3,000 visitor visa bond proposal. It seems I have an ally in my efforts as Vince Cable this morning rightly raised his concerns telling the Today Programme: "I mean certainly the reaction to it from our friends in India and elsewhere, where we're trying to build up a lot of trade and have very good relationships is one of outrage and I think we're going to have to do this in a much more sensible way."
Theresa May's proposed bond scheme will force visitors from 'high risk countries' apparently identified as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana to pay £3,000 fee in order to enter the country. Those who are unable to fork up the cash will be refused a visitor's visa.
This visa bond, preventing people from Asia and Africa from visiting the UK, will not only severely impact our economic prospects but will also send a message of hostility to the rest of the world.
As I've argued before, the bond scheme could hinder our economic growth and our business relations with these countries. The Labour Party wants to see this Tory Government do more to promote trade while our business spokesman Chuka Umunna has been pointing out the long term investment potential of nations such as Nigeria and Ghana. Chuka reminded us that "Ghana is on course to be the eighth fastest growing economy in the world between 2011 and 2015", and that "the IMF expects the Nigerian economy to grow by 7% this year alone." Nigeria is the seventh largest country in the world and, according to a UN report, its population is set to exceed that of the United States by 2050. In fact, the West African nation will start to compete with China as the second most populous country in the world.
With such a fast-growing population, infrastructure requirements will be absolutely key to Nigeria's development, and the UK now risks losing engineering and trade links with the country because of David Cameron and Theresa May's hostile immigration policies.
Similarly, we all know that India is a rising force to be reckoned with. The IMF forecasts India's 2018 GDP levels at $2,980billion, but the Home Secretary might as well put up a sign saying the UK isn't open for business.
Unsurprisingly, the reaction in these affected countries has been to retaliate. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a politician in Nigeria, warned that if Theresa May's bond policy is approved, Nigeria would respond by forcing Britons to pay huge sums to enter the country.
In addition to the economic and diplomatic calamities that will be caused by the visa bonds, there will be inevitable social implications for those who already live in this country.
Diaspora communities in my Leicester South constituency have expressed outrage at this policy, and have asked why visitors who have no intention to abuse the immigration system should have to pay such extortionate fees. Nearly all of those people who contacted me as part of my campaign have said the same thing: that the £3,000 visitor visa bond is unaffordable, and will prevent them from seeing their relatives and friends.
We all want to see this Tory government get a grip and address the problem of illegal immigration. But May's £3,000 visitor visa bond is ill thought through doing nothing to address either illegal immigration or net migration. I hope Theresa May was listening to her Cabinet colleague this morning and u-turns before it's too late.
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