The Guardian: Home Office making secret payments to obtain travel documents from embassies
22 May 2014
The Guardian reported yesterday that the Home Office is making “secret” payments to embassies to obtain travel documents in order to deport migrants and failed asylum seekers.
According to the Guardian, diplomatic sources from embassies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East said the Home Office offered money in return for providing travel documents as quickly as possible.
The payments do not appear in the Home Office’s annual report.
One African diplomatic source told the Guardian: “I know that some embassies do accept payments from the Home Office for providing travel documents, but we do not because we consider it to be improper to take money for this. Sometimes it takes us a long time to check out whether someone the Home Office wants to remove is actually from my country.”
A Home Office spokesman told the Guardian: “We work closely with embassies from a wide range of countries to obtain travel documents to assist removal.”
According to the Guardian, the Home Office said it would not make more than a three-figure payment for travel documents, though some diplomats said they had been offered substantially more.
The Guardian says that it made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request about payments made to the Nigerian embassy, but officials rejected the request to reveal it.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn is seeking more information about the payments. He told the Guardian: “It sounds odd on two grounds. Firstly why the secrecy and secondly what effect does this have on the potential deportee in that their details would have been flagged up in advance to the authorities in the country concerned?”
Theresa May says she still has the target of cutting net migration to the UK to below 100,000, but admitted it had become “more difficult”.
The home secretary refused to admit the target would not be met by the 2015 election, even though the latest figures showed 212,000 more people moved to live in the UK than left.
She admitted “heated” coalition discussions over immigration measures.
And she outlined plans to act to cut down on immigration from within the EU.
Mrs May was speaking as the UK’s political parties await the results of the European Parliament elections, which are due after 22:00 BST on Sunday.
- There were two sets of elections on Thursday. The results of the local elections in England and Northern Ireland are already known.
- The results of the UK-wide elections to the European Parliament will be announced later. There is a Vote 2014 special on BBC One from 23:00 BST and a joint BBC Radio4/5live radio special from 22:00 BST. You can follow all the latest news, reaction and results onbbc.co.uk/vote2014
Mrs May said the coalition had “yet to get agreement” on the measures that should be introduced to reform the current system.
We haven’t yet got agreement across the coalition to do that. But these are the sorts of measures we keep looking at”
Theresa MayHome secretary
“It’s no surprise to anybody that there has been some long-standing, possibly heated at times, discussions among the coalition on issues of immigration,” Mrs May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
She said that if you excluded immigration from the EU, the migration figures were back down to 1990s levels, but the government recognised it needed to do something about European migration.
Tightening up on benefits was one of the government’s plans, she said.
Mrs May confirmed a report in the Sunday Telegraph that consideration was being given to deporting people who came to the UK to work, but who could not find a job after six months.
‘It’s a target’
She said changes already coming in would mean EU migrants would have to be in the UK for three months before being able to claim benefits.
They were now looking at cutting the length of time migrants could claim benefits from six months to three months, she added.
“We haven’t yet got agreement across the coalition to do that. But these are the sorts of measures we keep looking at,” she said.
By Vicki Young, BBC political correspondent
Theresa May’s acknowledgement that it has become “more difficult” to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands is a statement of the obvious, but it shows there is little ministers can do to control who arrives in the UK from the rest of Europe. The economic recovery here has brought a new wave of workers from countries like Poland and ministers are left tinkering with the rules on benefits for EU immigrants – they hope restricting eligibility further will deter some from coming and prove to British voters that the system is fair. The Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives have all promised to listen to the message voters are sending on immigration, but there’s little sign that radical policy changes are on the way.
The Conservatives went into the 2010 General Election pledging to “take steps to take net migration back to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”.
But the Lib Dems stopped that pledge being included in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s “programme for government” after the election, instead pledging to ensure immigration “is controlled so people have confidence in the system”.
Although net migration fell early on in the coalition government, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that net migration bounced back to 212,000 in the year to December, from 177,000 the previous year.
“We still have that aim of the tens of thousands. But of course it has become more difficult and net migration is too high,” she said.
“That’s why I want to continue working to bring it down. In those areas we can control – that is, immigration from outside the European Union – everything we have done as a government has been having an impact.”
She said that net migration from outside the EU was now back at levels last seen in the 1990s.
Pressed on whether the government would make a “pledge” or a “promise” to reach its target, Mrs May responded by saying: “I’ve still got that target, it’s always been a target.”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was asked on the Sunday Politics whether he would admit that net migration would not be below 100,000 by the next election.
He said there would be measures announced soon and “it is our intention to move towards that target – we will do our damnedest to do that”.
When programme host Andrew Neil put it to Mr Pickles that the target was not going to be hit, Mr Pickles said: “I don’t know that to be fact – I cannot confirm that.”
The questions about immigration policy came in the wake of the English local election results which saw the UK Independence Party, which focused its campaign on leaving the EU and regaining control of UK borders, taking seats off the more established parties.
In response to Mrs May’s interview, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, for Labour said: “Theresa May says she is sticking to her net migration target yet it is badly failing and no one believes she has any chance of meeting it next year.”
Eric Pickles says David Cameron has got “a better record than just about any prime minister” on Europe
“For the home secretary to keep making big pledges and failing to meet them undermines trust in the whole immigration system.
“Having lost so many votes and seats while their net migration target is failing badly, the Tories seem to be rushing for more headlines before they have policies worked out.”
Report from BBC.
Official figures show a rise in the arrival of European Union citizens to the UK in the year to December 2013, but net migration remains unchanged.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics said net migration remained at 212,000, unchanged from the previous quarterly figures.
Separate data shows a 7% rise in registrations of overseas workers to 603,000 in the year to March 2014.
Net migration means the number of people arriving, minus those leaving.
The level of net migration stands at more than twice the government’s target of 100,000 a year.
The detailed figures show that in the year to December 2013, some 201,000 EU citizens came into the UK as long-term immigrants, something officials said was a statistically significant increase of 43,000 over the previous year.
Why do people come to the UK?
- 214,000 for work
- 177,000 to study
- 71,000 for family reasons
- 24,000 seeking asylum
- 19,000 returning home
- 21,000 no reason stated
Estimated figures based on ONS survey data
Of those, 125,000 came for work reasons, up from 95,000 the year before.
However, due to changes in movements of other categories of people, the overall net migration figure remains unchanged.
The ONS said recent patterns of net migration had shown rises over the past two years, but the trend continued to be lower than the general levels seen since 2004.
The ONS said the number of National Insurance numbers issued to overseas workers rose 7% to 603,000 in the year ending March 2014. Of those, there were significant rises in registrations by workers from four EU countries:
- Polish registrations were up by 11,000 to 102,000
- Italian registrations rose by 9,000 to 42,000
- Bulgarian registrations climbed by 7,000 to 18,000
- And Romanian registrations increased by 29,000 to 47,000.
The overall level of immigration remains at approximately half a million people a year while the number emigrating for the long term stood at just over 300,000.
Work remained the most important reason for people wanting to come to the UK, said the ONS, with study second.
In total, 23,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria came to the UK as long-term migrants in 2013, up from 9,000 the previous year. This rise occurred before the end of labour controls on workers from both countries.
The detailed figures show that recent trends are continuing. The number of EU citizens arriving has been rising while the number of people from the rest of the world remains lower than peaks seen in the mid-2000s.
Second, the number of overseas students from outside the EU is continuing to decline.
Four years ago, approximately 100,000 people a year were coming to study from “New Commonwealth” countries – broadly meaning former British territories in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. That figure now stands at 35,000.
In broad terms, around half of long-term immigrants arriving for work are EU citizens, up to 30% are non-EU and the rest are British citizens.
The Home Office has published two Statements of Changes to the Immigration Rules this month. The statements announce some upcoming changes to the immigration rules for Tier 4 applicants and their dependants, and changes to some other immigration rules that can affect students.
The changes which are most relevant to students are about:
- which nationalities need a tuberculosis (TB) test before applying for a visa
- how much money a Tier 4 applicant or their dependant needs to show, and the maximum deduction for accommodation fees already paid to the Tier 4 sponsor
- a new “acceptable” bank in Bangladesh
- three new “low risk” nationalities, and a change for all “low risk” nationals
- ATAS clearance for a Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme application
- changes to the visa national list
- a change to the work restriction for Tier 4 dependants
We have summarised these changes below, and the dates when the changes will take effect. Unless otherwise stated, the new rules affect applications made on or after the stated date.
31 March 2014: Tuberculosis testing
Algeria, Belarus, Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Ukraine will be added to the list of countries whose nationals need to take a tuberculosis (TB) test at an approved clinic before applying for a Tier 4 visa to come to the UK for a course of 6 months or more. Anyone from these countries who will receive a decision on their immigration application on or after 31 March 2014 needs to include a TB certificate with their visa application. If you are applying before 31 March 2014, ask advice from the entry clearance post.
1 July 2014: maintenance for Tier 4 applicants and their dependants
The required maintenance will increase for Tier 4 applicants and their dependants, for applications made on or after 1 July 2014. The Home Office has explained that this early notice will allow applicants enough time to arrange any extra money now required.
At the same time, the maximum deduction from the required maintenance will increase from £1000 to £1020. This deduction can only be applied for money paid to the Tier 4 sponsor for accommodation fees in university-managed housing.
The new monthly figures for Tier 4 applicants their dependants are as follows. In most cases, you will need to show up to 9 months’ worth of funds, so multiply the figure by 9. If you have “established presence”, you can show up to 2 months’ worth of funds, so you would multiply the figure below by 2.
|Type of application||Current amount||New amount from 1 July 2014|
|Tier 4 (General) studying in Inner London||£1000||£1020|
|Tier 4 (General) studying elsewhere in the UK||£800||£820|
|Tier 4 (Child) staying with carer / close relative||£550||£560|
|Tier 4 (Child), under 12 accompanied by a parent||£1500||£1535|
|Tier 4 (Child), under 12 accompanied by a parent, each additional child||£600||£615|
|Tier 4 (Child), aged 16 or 17, living independently and studying in inner London||£900||£920|
|Tier 4 (Child), aged 16 or 17, living independently and studying elsewhere in the UK||£700||£715|
|Tier 4 (Child), under 16 or not living independently:||£550||£560|
|Dependant of Tier 4 (General) migrant studying in Inner London:||£600||£615|
|Dependant of Tier 4 (General) migrant studying elsewhere in the UK||£450||£460|
6 April 2014: acceptable banks in Bangladesh
Premier Bank Limited has been added to the list of acceptable financial institutions in Bangladesh, for applications made on or after 6 April 2014. If you are using financial documents from a bank in Bangladesh, you should not use documents from any bank on the “unacceptable” list,
6 April 2014: “Low risk” nationals
From 6 April 2014, “low risk” applicants will no longer be exempt from the credibility interview.
Also, nationals of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be added to the list of “low risk” countries. This means that nationals of those countries, who are making a Tier 4 application in that country or in the UK, do not need to include evidence of their finances or academic qualifications when they apply. You do need to gather the evidence, and have it available if requested, but you do not need to send it.
6 April 2014: ATAS
A Tier 4 application to study some courses requires you to obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate as part of the application. However, a Tier 4 application to join the Doctorate Extension Scheme will not need a ATAS certificate, even if the course normally needs one, as long as you apply less than 28 days before the course end date, as stated on your CAS.
Your Tier 4 sponsor can issue a CAS for a Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme application up to 60 days before the course end date. So if you do apply 28 days or more before the course end date, you will still need an ATAS certificate.
5 May 2014: Visa national list
All Venezuelan nationals will become visa nationals from 5 May 2014, and therefore they will always need to apply for entry clearance (a visa) before travelling to the UK. This includes coming to the UK as a Student Visitor, Child Visitor or General Visitor. This change affects all decisions made on or after 5 May 2014.
For decisions made before 5 May 2014, only some Venezuelan nationals are visa nationals. There is an exemption for Venezuelan nationals whose passport has biometric details on an electronic chip, but this exemption will be removed from 5 May 2014..
Nationals of Bahrain with a special or diplomatic passport will not need entry clearance if they are coming to the UK as a General Visitor. Special or diplomatic passport holders coming as a Child Visitor, Student Visitor, or in any other category, and nationals of Bahrain with other types of passport will still need to apply for entry clearance.
6 April 2014: Dependants’ employment
The work conditions for a Tier 4 dependant will add a restriction on working as a professional sports player or coach. The Home Office has explained that this restriction is “designed to prevent applicants from circumventing the requirement to be endorsed by the relevant UK sports governing body in the dedicated [sponsored work visa] categories.”
Wealthy foreign business executives will get a new “VIP” visa service to speed their entry to the UK, Theresa May will announce.
Ministers are creating a new visa system for global business leaders amid concerns that moves to tighten immigration rules are deterring “high-value” individuals from overseas.
Around 100 wealthy foreigners will initially be invited to join a new “bespoke” visa service which the Home Office said will ensure their passage through the UK border system is “swift and smooth.”
Members of the “GREAT Club” will get a personal “account manager” at the UK Visas and Immigration service to deal with their travel plans. The manager will arrange visa services “tailored to each individual’s needs at no extra cost”, the Home Office said.
Officials declined to say who would qualify for the club, saying only that individuals in a position to make a “significant contribution” to the economy would be eligible.
Mrs May, the Home Secretary, will also announce plans to extend existing priority visa services to business people in more countries. Rich visitors from India and China will be able to apply for same-day visa approval, instead of waiting several days.
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