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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Vince Cable slams Home Office decision to charge £3000 "bond" from South Asian visitors

The government's Business Secretary Vince Cable has condemned the government's plan to impose a £3000 bond on South Asians applying for visit visas to the UK, a day after the Home Office confirmed it would go ahead with the pilot scheme. 

Lib Dem Cable said the bond sent the "wrong message" about Britain and criticized Conservative Party MP's of "obsessing" over the number of immigrants coming to the UK.

“It is very disappointing and it has not been agreed across the coalition and it seems to send the wrong message that Britain is closed for business,” Cable told the Financial Times.

“The operation for the visa scheme, together with the bonds on these Commonwealth countries is simply having the effect of driving bona fide visitors who want to spend and to do business in the UK to France and Germany.”

Cable's views contradict the position adopted by his party leader Nick Clegg who had originally supported the bonds for short-term visitors.

The Home Office confirmed yesterday that the bonds would apply to all visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as holiday visa applicants from Nigeria and Ghana. 

The bond will be refundable and will be imposed on "high-risk" visitors from the six commonwealth countries, although the Home Office is yet to confirm whether it will be a blanket charge or imposed at the discretion of Visa Officers in the countries.

A Home Office statement said if the scheme is successful Britain would like to apply the bond "on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country."

On Sunday, Cable described as "stupid and offensive" a Home Office campaign urging illegal immigrants to "go home voluntarily or face arrest".

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Cable said the scheme wouldn't work because he doubted whether illegal immigrants had "a sophisticated grasp of English" and added that the campaign was designed to stir up unjustified fears.

"It is designed, apparently, to create a sense of fear in the British population that we have a vast problem of illegal immigration," he said.

This was not true, Cable argued. "We have a problem, but it's not a vast one. And it has got to be dealt with in a measured way, dealing with the underlying causes."

He went on: "Actually, it's quite difficult being an illegal immigrant in Britain. You can't work, certainly legally. You can't have access to benefits. So the idea that there's some vast hidden army of people is almost certainly wrong."

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