Posted on September 10, 2009

Visa Sham As Just 29 out of 66,000 Applicants From Pakistan Interviewed Despite Supposed ‘Crackdown’

Tim Shipman, Daily Mail (London), September 10, 2009

Visa checks on immigrants from Pakistan have been condemned as a sham.

Figures showed that just 29 out of 66,000 applicants were interviewed by officials since a ‘rigorous new system’ began operating last October.

The Home Office set up the ‘hub and spoke’ scheme last year to prevent terrorists, extremists, illegals and criminals from entering the UK.

The plan was to scrutinise candidates’ paper work in the Middle East before they travelled to Britain.

But data has revealed that just one in a thousand of those granted visas was quizzed face to face.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has also admitted that not one applicant faced a telephone interview in the first nine months of the scheme.

The Tories said the statistics were proof that Britain’s immigration controls are ‘wholly inadequate’.

Gordon Brown and MI5 boss Jonathan Evans have stated publicly that militants from Pakistan are the biggest terrorist threat to Britain and the country is classified as a ‘high risk’ for visas by the Home Office.

Under the new arrangements entry requests by Pakistani and Afghan nationals are checked for fraud and forgery in Islamabad and are then passed to a processing centre in Abu Dhabi.

The Home Office said the system has raised the visa refusal rate for Pakistani citizens from 32 per cent in 2006 to 44 per cent by the end of last year.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘There are very real concerns that the system is being abused by people who have no right to come to the UK.’

Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted in June that all passports of Pakistani applicants are checked, but not always their other paperwork.

In July it emerged that the ‘hubs’ employ just 11 entry and clearance officers and two managers, meaning they have on average 11 minutes to examine each application.

The Home Office says a further 200 backroom staff process paperwork but the shortage of frontline immigration officers contributes to the small number of applicants quizzed.

Phil Woolas, Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, said: ‘Trained officers check 100 per cent of passports submitted with applications in Pakistan.’