UKBA Appeal the disclosure of their Immigration Discrimination List

The government has launched a two day appeal against a ruling by the information commissioner for a partial disclosure of the list that it must publish a secret blacklist of 44 countries whose nationals face tougher immigration measures when applying for a visa to come to Britain.

The blacklist consists of 44 countries with the worst immigration record whose nationals are targeted for tougher discriminatory action when applying to come to Britain.

It claims that by releasing the blacklist (“naming and shaming”) the countries, diplomatic relations could be soured and British travellers could be penalised by having their own visas restricted. These travellers include officials, which would “hinder our ability to function effectively overseas, damage business and reduce the projection of UK ‘soft power’.”

The FCO state that the countries will consider it as a personal slight and are likely to retaliate damaging Britain’s diplomatic relations.

The Foreign Office will argue against publicising those nations deemed to be “high risk” today at an appeal hearing launched by the Home Office.

The list was established last February in response to findings by John Vine, the independent inspector of the UK Border Agency, revealed that British entry clearance officers based in Abu Dhabi and Islamabad were discriminating against Pakistani visa applicants compared to those from the Gulf states by demanding far more documentation from them, such as land registry title deeds. He said their action did not comply with equalities legislation.

The Home Office subsequently responded by securing legal authorisation under equalities legislation to discriminate against nationalities considered “high-risk” by subjecting those applicants to more rigorous questioning and checks.

The powers meant that UK Border Agency officers can demand more documents, such as bank statements, subject applicants to more rigorous questioning and their sponsors to interviews, when they apply for a visa or arrive at British airports. Also, those from countries on the list who are asked to leave Britain have their deportations given a higher priority.

A Home Office statement to the information rights tribunal says that to get on the list, a country must have had more than 150 visa refusals or breaches of immigration law, with more than 50 of these for every 1,000 admissions in at least one of the preceding three months. A country can also be added to the list if there is specific intelligence that a significant number of its nationals have breached or about to breach the immigration rules.

In practice there are actually two lists. The first contains the 44 countries whose nationals can expect much more rigorous treatment of their visa applications. The second list is of 32 countries whose nationals face tougher action when they arrive in Britain and if they face deportation. They are updated quarterly and signed off by the immigration minister.

Most countries on the list are thought to be in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Susan Simon, the FCO’s director of migration, reportedly told the tribunal: “Although many countries will be aware of the security concerns posed by their nationals, some would be highly offended if the UK raised these concerns publicly.

“Many countries use visa and immigration policy as a foreign policy tool, reflecting their attitudes towards certain countries and the value of certain relationships. They expect us to do the same.”

She said even those that understood Britain’s risk-based approach would react badly if it was publicised that they were on the list.

She expected that the published list would attract widespread attention and feature in the international media.

The FCO also argued that it could also risk overseas contracts for British companies and would “create or increase the perception that the UK is not open to visitors or business from those countries.”

The lawyer that helped bring the action stated: “We will be arguing that the Home Office have not provided a single piece of evidence to support their allegation that disclosure of the list will damage international relations and inviting the tribunal to rule that any risk of damage to international relations is wholly outweighed by the public interest.”

When we first disclosed this list earlier this year, different advisors had differing opinions. We were always aware of differing treatment of different citizens when we made applications. Share your opinions here or contact us.

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