British visa system 'may discriminate against Pakistanis'

4th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

The British agency responsible for monitoring immigration may be discriminating against Pakistanis in the way it hands out visas, a report by the independent chief inspector said Thursday.

John Vine, who oversees the work of the UK Border Agency, found that its staff were making it more difficult for people to enter Britain from Pakistan than from Gulf states such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai.

"I found that staff were applying higher evidential requirements for entry to the UK to customers from Pakistan," Vine said in a new report.

He added: "I believe this means that the UK Border Agency was not only failing to be open and transparent about their approach towards customers, but also may be discriminating unlawfully in favour of Gulf Co-operation Council customers and against Pakistanis."

The agency should take immediate action to ensure it was not violating the race relations law, he added.

Pakistan is the fourth largest source of applications to enter Britain, but over the past two years most decision-making has been moved to London because of the deteriorating security situation there.

Immigration minister Damian Green said Britain took a "risk-based approach to decision-making, giving extra scrutiny to those countries where historically fraud has been higher" and was working with Islamabad to stamp out visa abuse.

But he said changes had been introduced since the report was drawn up, including a new, faster service for Pakistani businesses, and added: "The new government is committed to providing a first-class visa service to Pakistan."

© 2010 AFP

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