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Saturday, 29 July, 2000, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
Immigration bond scheme scrapped
Passport
Scheme was meant to control the numbers visiting Britain
An immigration bond scheme which would have forced certain visitors entering Britain to hand over about 3,000 has been dropped by the government.

The government has decided not to press ahead with the returnable deposit scheme after it stirred angry reaction among anti-racist and immigration support groups.

A pilot study of the proposals, aimed at people from some Asian and African countries whose visa applications might be considered borderline, was due to be introduced in the autumn.

Foreign Office Minister Keith Vaz confirmed on Saturday that the programme had been dropped for good.

Racist threat

Ministers have been hinting the scheme would be shelved since it sparked outrage from immigration campaigners and the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, Bill Morris.

In April Mr Morris said the scheme could encourage racists.

On Saturday he told BBC News Online the union welcomed the decision to drop the scheme.

"I'm delighted that people seeking to come to the UK will be judged on merit of their application rather than the size of their wallet," he said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes added: "The idea of bonds as a surety for visitors from some countries was clearly discriminatory.

"When will the government learn that what we need are sensible policies, not tough-sounding but half-baked ideas?"

First step

Mr Morris said the T&G would keep up pressure on the government to drop the "iniquitous" voucher system for asylum seekers.

Under the scheme, asylum seekers are given vouchers instead of cash to do their weekly shopping, which campaigners say is degrading.

They mounted protests outside supermarkets around England and Wales on Saturday, calling on retailers to pull out of the scheme.

"We believe the government should take the next step and abolish it," he said.

The National Assembly Against Racism and Indian Workers' Association Great Britain have also campaigned against the scheme and previous moves to charge up to 10,000 for relatives from the Indian sub-continent visiting residents in Britain.

The groups said the impact of the bond scheme could cause severe financial hardship for black families who are already over-represented among the poorest in Britain.

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See also:

16 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Visitor bonds 'could be scrapped'
14 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Profile: Bill Morris
03 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Asylum vouchers spark protests
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