Right of appeal may be scrapped for relatives denied UKvisas

London: Britain is considering scrapping of the right of appeal for relatives of British Asian families, who are refused visas to visit them each year, a controversial move likely to impact thousands of Indians, a media report said on Tuesday.

Quoting a leaked Home Office policy paper, the Guardian newspaper reported that officials have been warned that the move is highly controversial, particularly within the Asian communities and legally risky.

Home Office ministers have been told they need to "warm up colleagues in government for these potentially controversial changes", starting with Conservative party co-chairman Baroness Warsi, the only British Pakistani in the coalition government.

Immigration minister Damian Green has been warned to expect protests from "some Commonwealth countries", implying the move could trigger a renewed row with India and Pakistan in the wake of the recent controversy over the cap on immigration.

More than 420,000 visa applications were made for temporary visits by close relatives of British families in 2010, at a cost of more than 70 pounds each.

Of the decisions made last year, 350,000 family visit visas were granted, 88,000 were turned down.

More than 63,000 of those who were refused, appealed against the decision and around 36 per cent were allowed to come to Britain on appeal.

The paper ? written for Green by the UK Border Agency`s (UKBA) director of appeals and removals, Phil Douglas ? says the move is a "crucial part of plans to reduce the number of appeals and resultant cost to the taxpayer".

He says family visit visas are the only visit visa decisions taken by entry clearance officers abroad that still attract a full right of appeal.

"We can expect this move to be controversial ? in particular with some Commonwealth countries and UK communities with families overseas ? and in previous advice we recommend warming up colleagues in government for these potentially controversial changes, starting with a conversation with Baroness Warsi," said Douglas.

Immigration welfare groups have condemned the move as "discriminatory and mean" and said such visits often involved weddings, funerals and visits to dying relatives.

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "There is an entirely justifiable expectation of British and settled people to be able to welcome family visitors.

The fact that 36 per cent of appeals are successful demonstrates the paucity of decision-making in this area.

"If a refusal for someone to attend a wedding, a funeral, to visit a dying relative or to be with their loved ones for short periods is refused, the right to an appeal is the only fair way to settle such a matter," Rahman said.

He said this idea "is discriminatory and mean and should be abandoned before it gets any further".

The move echoes the robust approach expected later this year when ministers unveil plans to curb the number of family members coming to settle in Britain as part of the push to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands".