Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Pakistanis most likely to be turned down for UK visas

Pakistan International Airlines jet
The Home Office dismisses claims of discrimination over the applications

Pakistanis are more likely to be turned down for visas to visit the UK than any other nationals, figures show.

Some 41% of applications for family visitor visas from Pakistan were rejected in the last year, according to Home Office statistics seen by the BBC.

Bangladeshis were the second least successful with a refusal rate of 31% but the figure for India was just 14%.

Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent East, blames discrimination by the Home Office, but the government denies this.

Tougher controls are thought by some people to be due to growing controversy over immigration, and fears visitors are staying beyond their visa and disappearing into the UK.

Critics say many genuine applicants are not being allowed to visit their relations for important occasions such as weddings and funerals.

71-year-old Abdul Rahman, from Cricklewood, north London, is one of those who has been unable to invite his relations from Pakistan.

I'm a respected member of the community and my application was supported by my local MP... but we were still turned down
Waheed Akbar

His son, Ishrar, 32, was married in November and Mr Rahman wanted his two brothers, a sister and cousin, who all live in Pakistan to join them for the wedding.

But their family visit visa application was turned down because of insufficient finance and accommodation. This was despite the family setting £14,000 aside to cover fares, food and accommodation.

"It is important to have their participation in this marriage. [I feel] very upset and [it's] unpleasant. We were thinking they would come and we would enjoy it all together. But in their absence we can't enjoy that properly," said Mr Rahman.

The Akbar family in Luton told a similar story. Waheed Akbar, 48, applied for permission for his businessman brother Jamil to visit them.

But his family visit visa application was also rejected.

Like the Rahmans, Mr Akbar had proved to officials that he had enough money to pay for and support his brother during his visit. He is also a Luton councillor and former mayor of the town.

'Blatant discrimination'

He said: "I'm a respected member of the community and my application was supported by my local MP. We also proved that we had enough money and accommodation to look after my brother during his visit. But we were still turned down.

"If someone like me can't get a visa for my brother then there's something really wrong."

Ms Teather said the government needs to "urgently review" their practice and "look at why it is so many Pakistani family visa are being refused".

The Lib Dem MP said: "Why is it so high in comparison with other countries? Is this bad practice?

"It does look on the face of it as though it's blatant discrimination against Pakistanis.

"It's as if they've decided that all Pakistanis are going to overstay and as a consequences are refusing their visas."

The Home Office rejected accusations of discrimination and said it refused applications only when they were unsatisfactory.

Applicants must show they will leave the country when they are supposed to and have sufficient funds for their stay, it added.



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