The present situation, in which anyone refused a visa to visit family in the UK can appeal at no expense to themselves, is now costing the UK taxpayers some £50m a year and must be brought to an end immediately, says think tank Migration Watch UK in a report (Briefing Paper No 1.31) out today.
All charges for appeals against the refusal of a visa were abolished by the Labour Government in 2002 - since then the number of appeals has increased six fold to nearly a thousand a week - at a weekly cost of £1m.
‘At a time of severe financial stringency for UK families it is an outrageously generous system which taxpayers should no longer be expected to fund,’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch. ‘It should be stopped immediately, the definition of “family visitor” tightened, charges reintroduced and consideration given to bonds to ensure people actually leave at the end of their visit. We hope that the government’s measures to be announced next week will deal with these issues.’
He said that the definition of family visitor is so wide that it could include as many as 120 relatives of a middle aged person in Britain. And a "family visitor" can generally appeal against refusal even if the applicant intends to do something else also during the trip as the legislation does not specify that visiting a family member has to be the sole or primary purpose of the trip.
Said Sir Andrew. ‘The government have at last seemed to realise that it is ludicrous and grossly unfair that taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for foreign citizens who wish to visit Britain. In these straightened times there are much better uses for our money.’
He said that because of the well known inadequacies of the UK’s immigration system - in particular, its failure to record departures and poor record in removing people with no right to be here - there is a strong suspicion that this method is also used as yet another route to staying on illegally in Britain.
Sir Andrew said that of particular concern was the rapid growth of applications from certain countries. In 2006 India, Pakistan and Nigeria produced over ¼ million applications - up by a factor of 16 over a period of four years. 175,000 were approved. The numbers have remained high; in 2010 applications from these three countries totalled 196,000 of which 151,000 were approved. The worldwide total in 2010 was 423,000 of which 338,000 were approved.
‘The whole issue of immigration and asylum was so ineptly handled by the previous administration that it will inevitably take time to reverse some of its most woeful decisions but this must surely be one of the easier ones to accomplish and should be a high priority for Ministers,’ said Sir Andrew.