BY VICTORIA OJEME
ABUJA— The Federal Government, yesterday, vowed to defend the interests of Nigerians, following the introduction of a new visa policy by the British government. The policy requires Nigerians travelling to the United Kingdom to produce a cash bond of N730,000 (3,000 pounds, $4,600 or 3,500 euros) before they enter the UK.
The Sunday Times newspaper had reported that visitors from Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Ghana whose nationals are deemed to pose a “high risk” of immigration abuse will be required to produce the bond which they will forfeit if they overstay in Britain after their visas have expired.
Reacting, yesterday, while rendering account of his stewardship at the Radio House in Abuja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, said the Federal Government was yet to receive any official communication from the UK government.
“We have received no official communication from the UK government. When we receive communication from them, we will study whatever proposal they bring and know what to do.
“But I can assure all Nigerians that the Jonathan government will defend the interest of Nigerians by whatever means we can. So, when we get their proposal, we will study it and we will see how we can guide the ordinary Nigerians,” Ashiru said.
UK Visa bond unacceptable —House Committee
House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, has also condemned the new British visa policy, saying it is discriminatory and unacceptable.
Chairman of the committee, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, in a statement issued in Abuja, said such policy was not in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
“This is totally discriminatory and unacceptable. It is targeted at non-white Commonwealth”, she said.
Ukeje (PDP-Abia) said as a Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House of Representatives would take a critical look at the policy as it affects Nigerians and come up with a way forward.
According to her, “they should realise that it is not in the best interest of UK. We will, as a country, look at it vis-a- vis our citizens and come up with a decision. We agree totally with the UK Foreign Minister that the policy is totally unworkable and impractical.
It is contrary to the commitment made to our President by David Cameron during their last meeting. We believe it is for political reason ahead of general election. We seek that our long historical relationship should take precedence over political expediency,” Ukeje advised.
The pilot scheme of the new visa policy is scheduled to commence in November. According to the Sunday Times, the controversial move by the UK home secretary, Theresa May, to introduce the Australian-style system reflects her determination to show that the Conservatives are serious about cutting immigration into the UK .
Ms May said: “This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands, while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain .”
She added: “In the long run we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.”
The Home Office is targeting countries which have high volumes of visitor visa applications and what it deems to be relatively high levels of fraud and abuse.