Mavi Mudiaga: Reply to Oluwaseun Babajide – Has the UK Goofed with the £3,000 Visa Bond Policy?

In the second quarter of this year, the British Government announced a potential new immigration policy, which proposes a £3000 visa bond for short-term visitors from Nigeria, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Pakistan. The said bond would be deposited while crossing the United Kingdom (UK) border and upon the visitor’s legal exit (i.e. leaving the UK on or before the visa expiry date), the bond would be returned. There are other technical details e.g. the potential targets, reasons/justifications for the policy, etc., which I would spare you details of. For the purpose of this article, the basic information provided suffices.

Upon the announcement by Theresa May (Home Secretary), the governments involved (most notably Indian and Nigerian) expressed their anger and disappointment and condemned the policy. Individual commentators also made their voices heard. The individual complaint that caught my attention was the one published on Bella Naija here; this article is a reply to that publication. In that piece, the author asked whether the UK government goofed with the visa bond policy- my simple reply is NO, they did not.

N.B: Words in quotation marks are directly lifted from Oluwaseun Babajide’s article and reference to the author is a reference to Oluwaseun Babajide.

First, colonialism (whether 300 or 150 years) has no bearing on or relevance to the policy; we have moved on from that gloomy era. Contrary to the author’s assumption, the UK Government is not saying, “thank you for helping develop our country, we need you no more.” Au contraire, the policy seems to be saying “you’re welcome to our country, but please don’t extend your stay illegally.” It is like that extended family member or family friend that promises to be visiting for a short while to attend a job interview, but ends up “accidentally” getting the job, moves in almost permanently, then his/her sister also starts living in your house because of NYSC.

Assuming without conceding that Babajide’s assumption is indeed what the UK Government is saying, it simply reiterates the point that nationals from the affected countries should move on too! Spend your money improving your own country’s economy, or go elsewhere for whatever purposes you visited the UK for before the policy. After all, the colonial relationship Babajide referred to is akin to a couple’s relationship- if an ex- boyfriend/girlfriend does not want to be friends with his/her ex anymore but is still friends with his/her previous exes, why complain?

Second, whether or not “David Cameron and his Conservative Party seem to be playing to the gallery with this new immigration policy” as a political strategy, is irrelevant. At least, it is a commendable strategy which Babajide acknowledges appeals more to the British electorates. Besides, Conservatives are known for their pro-British and anti-immigration stance- it is one of their political ideologies. In Nigeria, do political parties have ideologies? Are they or their candidates accountable to the people? Do the elected representatives represent the interests of the electorate in Parliament? Do the elected representatives even know what their electorates want (beside good roads, water, education (duuuhh?!))? Do they have clear-cut winning strategies apart from zoning or rigging? So, why condemn or fault a government that has ideologies and attempts to comply with the wishes of its electorate.

More so, as Babajide mentions, “tougher immigration rules ensure a more stable social welfare and cultural regime for native Europeans.” The focus therefore is on the people. Rather than bash the UK Government for its strategy, we should look to our own government for improvements, developments and policies with clear-cut strategies that are beneficial to the people, instead of self-serving regimes and policies or policies that the average Nigerian cannot benefit from e.g. give local governments autonomy, make policies without sentimental religious influence (e.g. criminalisation of child marriage), government transparency, strict counter-terrorism policies, better accessible and credible education, better and more realistic and enforceable minimum wage commensurate with the state of our economy, etc. Such policies would promote stability and minimise the need to rely on Nigeria’s ex (Britain) or sugar daddies (other civilised nations Nigerians resort to- including other African countries).

Third, with regard to the author’s argument on terrorism, Nigeria is included on the list of countries for the pilot probably because terrorism appears to be a new norm in Nigeria. It is not just because of Mutallab (I would not include the Briton-born ‘Nigerian’- Michael Adebolajo- because as far as I am concerned, he is 100% British). Beside Mutallab, we have Boko Haram issues, a sect that apparently has links to Al-Qaeda and what is the Nigerian Government doing about it? Negotiating? Thousands of innocent Nigerians have been killed to the extent that when one reads the news of another attack, it does not seem like newsanymore.

On the other hand (a very remote and far-fetched point), the author fails to consider the fact that if aterrorist enters the UK and his/her extradition is sought  or the person applies for asylum, the UK Government has responsibilities it must comply with. For example, if there is a likelihood that the person would (upon his return) be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the UK Government has to protect that person by allowing him/her stay in the UK, whether the Government likes it or not- this is the principle of Non-refoulement in international law. Before the UK Government can extradite such person, it must receive unequivocal guarantees from the requesting Government that the person’s human rights would not be infringed. Getting such promises is not as easy as might be thought.

Finally, the UK Government does not stand to make the financial gains the author seems to have imagined. If the UK Government wants to make money off tourists, it would simply increase its visa application fees and the skies would not drop. More so, the £3000 bond would be returned if the foreigner leaves the country when s/he is supposed to. If s/he does not, it would cost the UK Government well over £3000 in tax-payers’ money to track down such migrant and deport him/her- it costs the UK Government around £25,000 to deport one illegal immigrant. More so, if such immigrant has availed himself/herself to public funds, that would cost the government way more than the £3000 s/he initially deposited at the port of entry.

Inasmuch as the bond policy sounds harsh and inconsiderate, the nationals of the affected countries have to deal with it. The UK is not the only country to visit for shopping, holiday, education or other purposes. If a person can afford to travel to the UK, spare £3000 should not be a problem- if the money means that much to the person, s/he would not remain there unlawfully. After all, a CNN Report revealed that Nigerians are big spenders on shopping in the UK. Besides, if the UK immigration officers refuse to grant an applicant visa would that be the end of the world? Hundreds of people are refused American visa daily on grounds that they “do not have proof of strong ties” and nobody can categorically say what “strong ties” really means or entails. The UK is not the only country in the world; there are about 196 countries in the world, including North Korea (good luck complaining about North Korea’s immigration policies).

The respective governments affected should go back to their drawing boards, re-strategise and come up with policies that would make their citizens not need to travel to the UK if they cannot afford to make the bond deposit.

The final question I ask dear Bella Naijarians is- must people go to ‘London?’

 

Originally published by Bella Naija here

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