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Opinions of Friday, 28 June 2013

Columnist: Amponsah, John

"High Risk" Ghanaian Citizens must pay £3000?

Statistics seem to say otherwise

By now many of you have heard that the home office (headed by Teresa May) of the Cameron government in the UK is asking certain "high risk" countries to pay £3,000 as a bond while being in the UK. This has now been widely reported in the UK, in America, in China, in India, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Sri Lanka and also in Nigerian and in Ghana and elsewhere.

The countries "selected" to begin this initial round are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana. Citizens from each of these six countries are expected to pay a bond of £3,000 (in cash!) when applying for a visa. This amount will be claimed by the government if the terms of the visa are violated. The scheme is to begin in November 2013.

So this is understandably a big deal because for people from economically less developed countries, £3,000 is a lot of money.

The choice of these "black and brown" nations has understandably raised some eyebrows. "The Hindu" newspaper of India in its (online) June 23rd write up stated that Canada had attempted such a scheme before but later abandoned when it was deemed to be discriminatory.

Apparently, without giving a clear definition of what "high risk" means, the British Home Office stated that (quoting from The Hindu) the nations above 'posed “the most significant risk of abuse” by their citizens'.

British Home Secretary Teresa May is quoted as saying, “This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain … In the long run, we are interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services,” she said."

On the surface, it seems the British are saying "we don't want your particular version of (black and brown) immigrants, unless you are coming here to study, in which case we will take you since it is quite likely you will anyway be paying for most if not all of your fees and once you are done studying, we shall try to entice you with jobs and incentives in order to get you to stay here in our country so as to 'brain drain' yours of your 'best and brightest'". Or is the message here more complex than this seemingly simplified version?

I decided to do some digging, to look at some data! The British government and its research arms provide tons of research data free and publicly available on the internet.

One of the interesting bits of data I found was from "The Migration Observatory" at the University of Oxford. A page on their website readily admits that the UK knows little about illegal (also known as irregular) immigrants,

"Irregular migrants are likely to have important impacts on, for example, labour markets, the provision of public services, government finances and social cohesion. Yet, as it is the case in many but not all other immigration countries, the data and information about the number, characteristics and impacts of irregular migrants are extremely limited. Irregular migration is by definition not recorded and eludes statistical coverage. Therefore, precise measurement is unfeasible." (www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/top-ten/10-irregular-migrants)

Bummer! And here I was thinking that I could readily find an official list of the top offenders. So on what basis was Ghana classified as a "high risk" country, because it seems that there is currently no comprehensive system in the UK to track migrants, as was outlined above?

What the British government however has, that I was able to find, is data on Deportations, Removal and Voluntary Departures from the UK. This to me was quite exciting because here one could at least find some general trends of those who got into trouble with the system because of reasons such as being an illegal immigrant. Once again, The Migratory Observatory has this to say,

" First, in UK immigration rules, deportation is a more specific term, applying to people (and the children of such people) whose removal from the country is deemed “conducive to the public good” by the Secretary of State, or when recommended by a court in conjunction with conviction of a criminal offense punishable by a prison term. Second, administrative removals (or just “removals”) apply to a larger set of cases involving the enforced removal of non-citizens who had entered the country illegally or deceptively, or stayed in the country longer than their visa permitted, or otherwise violated the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK. A subset of those removed administratively is made up of individuals “refused entry at port and subsequently removed. The third main category of enforced removals is known as “voluntary departures.” In this context, “voluntary” departures involve people against whom enforced removal has been initiated. (The term “voluntary” describes the method of departure rather than the choice of whether or not to depart.)" (www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/deportations-removals-and-voluntary-departures-uk)

So once I read this I thought, “Finally! We are getting somewhere!” Citizens from nations in this category sound like they constitute "high risk" to the UK. So, if Ghana is supposed to be a "high risk" nation, Ghana will probably be on this list. Let us talk about this list and its data.

Below is the 2010 data for the top ten nations whose citizens were recorded under "Removals and Departures" in the UK. 2010 is an interesting year in particular because it recorded the highest immigration numbers in the UK in the last decade. The top 10 countries by Removals and Departures in 2010 were: India, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, USA, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Malaysia. Where is Ghana? Not in the top 10 for 2010! So, what's going on? I thought Ghana was a “high risk” nation? Or so the British Home Office said. (www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/data-and-resources/tables/removals-and-departures-top-10-nationalities-2010)

For 2011, eight (8) of those countries that made the above 2010 list also featured. Once again, Ghana was not on the top 10 list for 2011: India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria, Brazil, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Philippines.

The next line of thought for me was to have a look at data on the numbers (influx) of immigrants to the UK in order to compare that data with the top ten listed countries that featured on the 2010 and 2011 "Removals and Departures" lists above .

LOOKING ON THE OFFICE OF NATIONAL STATISTICS (ONS) WEBSITE

From the "Estimated overseas-born population resident in the United Kingdom by country of birth, January 2011 -- December 2011 (Table 1.3, which can be found in the document "populationbycountryofbirthandnationalityjan11dec11_tcm77-277639.xls" found on online at www.ons.gov.uk), Ghana is not even listed in the first 25 countries! The top ten countries are India, Poland, Pakistan, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Bangladesh, South Africa, Nigeria, USA and Jamaica. This list tells you how many immigrants are from the respective countries.

Although the UK is currently “challenged” with handling "Eastern European" immigration, these migrants won't be slapped with a £3,000 bond because they nevertheless seem to be the "acceptable" kind of migrant. The same can be said for those from other (rich, Western) European countries such as Germany and the Republic of Ireland.

Ghana is even further down the list (34th) on the "Estimated population of overseas nationals resident in the UK by nationality" (Table 2.3 of the file mentioned above). Here the top ten are: Poland, Republic of Ireland, India, Pakistan, USA, Lithuania, France, Italy, Germany and China.

Looking at another table entitled "Population Growth by Ethnic Group: England and Wales: 2001 - 2009" (from the document "populationestimatesbyethnicgroupstatisticalbulletin_tcm77-220265.pdf", also from www.ons.gov.uk), one can see that the average Annual percentage growth of Black African (6.2%), Mixed Black African and White (6.3%), Asian: Indian (3.9%), Asian: Pakistan (4.1%), Mixed Asian and White (5.8%) are all admittedly high, compared with White British (0.0%), White Irish (-1.5%) and White: Other White (4.3% -- perhaps mostly Polish and other Eastern European), however one finds a whooping 8.6% for the growing Chinese population in the UK, yet neither this nor the high rate of Eastern European ethnic population growth is seen as "high risk".

So, what really is "high risk"? How did Ghana make it onto the "high risk" list? Without a proper and detailed definition from the UK Home Office, it is difficult to tell what they really mean.

Could it in fact be that one has got to be of black or brown (rather than white or yellow) ethnicity to be labelled as "high risk"? Countries such as China (13th on the overseas nationals list and 3rd on the "Removals and Departures" (i.e. "illegal/irregular" immigrants) list for 2010 and 2011 respectively), the Philippines (11th on the overseas nationals list and 10th on the 2011 "Removals and Departures" list) and Brazil (32nd on the overseas nationals list yet 2nd on the 2010 and 5th on the 2011 lists respectively) show what I would imagine to be "high risk" characteristics yet they are not included on the list of six nations above in which Ghana is included. Incidentally, these are nations whose citizens are supposed to have a better chance of paying a £3,000 bond in cash when applying for a visa, based on the GDP per capita of these nations. So why weren't they included on the "high risk" list? Or does the British Home Office have a different means of calculating "high risk" for different kinds of nations?

In particular, why was Ghana included on the list at all? Is it all based on the assumption of what is expected to happen or is there some data to back up the position of the UK Home Office? How does the UK determine that Ghana is a "high risk" country?

CONCLUSION

Sadly, where there is real data, it seems that some countries have been conveniently omitted. Based on the preliminary research I did, China should be a clear case for the "high risk" category (so should Brazil and the Philippines) yet I bet the British government is probably SCARED to ask visa applicants from China to pay a £3,000 bond, although Chinese citizens are (in general) in a much better position to pay £3,000 than Ghanaian citizens are, based on a comparison of the economic wealth of the respective countries. Also, Brits today are sulking over the massive influx of E8 country citizens into their nation, especially people from Poland and Lithuania, but these are members of the EU so it seems that from the point of view of the British government, these migrants are a preferred version over the black and brown ones? They won't be asked to pay £3,000.

From these preliminary investigations, and from the initial list, it seems to be that you've got to be black or brown, and from an economically poor country, in order to be asked to "stay at home because you're high risk", even when the data also points at other (in some cases) more likely culprits.

The lives of Ghanaian citizens wishing to travel to the UK will soon be affected in a real way come November 2013. Many of those poor university students who aim to visit to the big cities in the UK to do summer jobs will soon find themselves staying at home! Soon, only the wealthy and super smart will get to go to the UK. It all fits in well with the British Conservative Government's way of doing things.

I think Ghana in particular was maligned in this situation, unless the UK Home Office can furnish a more detailed rendering of what it means to be "high risk", also proving why Ghana should be on the list. Otherwise when Cameron arrives in Ghana to visit later this year to promote British business and politics, he should be questioned on this by journalists and government officials, if it happens that Teresa May's office is not forthcoming with a detailed enough explanation of why and how Ghana is a "high risk" country, especially when other provably "higher risk" countries have apparently been left out of this preliminary list.