Priti Patel Plans to Impose Visa Penalties on Countries That Don’t Take Back Migrants

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives for a regional cabinet meeting at the Rolls-Royce factory on October 15, 2021 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Home Secretary Priti Patel is planning to inflict visa penalties on countries that fail to take back foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers, in a bid to increase her woefully small number of deportations.

In a series of amendments set to be added to the Nationalities and Borders Bill, which is currently being debated by Parliament, the Home Secretary will reportedly introduce powers for the government to introduce restrictions on countries that refuse to take their people back.

“The UK has a proud history of being open to the world but we rightly expect our international partners to work with us to remove those who have no right to be in the UK … It is unfair on UK citizens and taxpayers that pressure is put on our public services by foreign nationals with no legal right to be here,” Patel said per The Times.

Under the proposed legal framework, the Home Office would be able to suspend visa applications from uncooperative countries outright, increase visa processing times, or impose a £190 surcharge for visa applications.

According to the paper, the countries refusing the most returns are Eritrea, Gambia, and Bangladesh. Returns to India and Pakistan have also been difficult, but the government struck a migration deal with India earlier this year which takes away Britain’s power to impose visa penalties on the former British colony.

It is also believed that Pakistan will escape facing any penalties for making deportations extremely difficult, as other issues such as security and counter-terrorism arrangements will be prioritised.

It is also not clear if the government will seek to impose penalties on France, which, despite being a safe and prosperous first-world nation, has failed to accept returns of boat migrants who cross the English Channel illegally. So far this year, over 18,000 such migrants have been recorded landing on British shores.

On top of the illegal boat migrants, it has been reported that an estimated 64,000 people remain in the country illegally after overstaying their visas each year.

While the government promised to “take back control” of Britain’s borders following the official departure from the European Union, it has failed to prevent soaring illegal boat migration. Deportations have also been a major area of failure, with the already small number of removals collapsing.

On top of this, nearly 2,600 foreign criminals were released from prison rather than being deported last year, with an average of seven foreign criminals being set free per day.

There are also currently approximately 9,000 foreign national offenders currently (FNOs) serving time behind bars in Britain — around a tenth of the total prison population in the country.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has consistently blamed deportation failures on “do-gooding” celebrities, protesters, and “activist lawyers”, who have all sought to block deportation flights.

The government has also blamed the pandemic, however the low deportation numbers were beginning to decline prior to the outbreak of the Chinese virus pandemic.

An amendment for speeding up deportation appeals claims by processing them while the offender is behind bars is also expected to be tabled next week.

Finally, Patel is seeking to enable immigration officials to test the age of alleged child asylum seekers through the use of X-rays of forearm bones, which is believed to be one of the most accurate means of testing a persons age.

Currently, supposed children fleeing from war, humanitarian crises, or terrorism are provided financial assistance until the age of 25. Asylum seekers over the age of 18 are still afforded government assistance, but the payments are much lower.

The system has effectively incentivised migrants to fraudulently claim to be minors, with over 2,000 such cases being recorded since 2015.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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