Muslims need not apply

The backlash from the war on terror on Britain’s non-white population is growing. Applications to visit relatives in Britain from countries with large Muslim populations are twice as likely to be turned down than they were just over a year ago. Families in Britain’s biggest ethnic minority communities are now struggling to have relatives visit them.

An analysis of last year’s statistical reports from British embassies around the world by Citizens Advice, the charity and national body for the bureaux, shows that refusals increased by more than 100% in countries with big Muslim populations.

The biggest rises in refusals were for applications from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. In Tehran, refusals jumped 188% between the first and second half of last year. From January to July, 8.5% of applicants were refused, but from August to December, a quarter was turned down. In New Delhi and Mumbai, refusals increased 105% during the same period.

Britain’s biggest non-white communities have been badly affected. There are 1 million people of Indian descent and 500,000 of Bangladeshi origin in the UK. Refusals of applications from families in Calcutta rose by 443%, and in Dhaka more than 60% of applications to visit relatives in Britain were refused in the second half of the year, compared with 38% in the first.

While it is getting harder for some people to visit relatives, it is getting easier for others. Refusals of applications from North America declined by 29% and from South America by 1% during the same period.

This dramatic rise in refusals of applications from one set of countries, many observers say, is driven by the “war on terror”. Decisions may be based less on hard evidence than on the possibility that applicants could be in some way connected to terrorist organisations.

Guardian, 16 April 2003