In the wake of the attack on Berlin, Oshin Shahiean, solicitor, senior immigration adviser, and founding partner at OTS Solicitors, examines the idea of 'extreme vetting' of Muslims who seek to enter the UK.
Following the latest terrorist atrocity in Berlin, calls are being made for the UK government to implement a Trump-style, ‘extreme vetting’ system to ensure Muslims who enter Britain pose no threat to the general population.
Would such a move be common sense, given the current terrorist threat, or is this blatant discrimination?
Let’s have a look at some basic facts:
At the last Census (2011), there were 2,706,066 people in the UK who identified themselves as Muslim - 4.5% of the total population. Since 2001 there have been 13 successful terrorist attacks in the UK - Of these, five were committed by Muslim extremists, five by the IRA and two by right-wing extremists.
If the UK were to vigorously vet Muslim people coming into the country, then judging by these figures, white people should also be subject to the same scrutiny to protect Britain’s security. especially given that a recent study showed that the number of white nationalists and self-identified Nazi sympathisers on Twitter have multiplied more than 600% in the last four years.
They outperform so-called Islamic State (Isis) in everything from follower counts to number of daily tweets.
The current immigration policy is thorough and comprehensive
Another factor to consider is that the UK already has a stringent policy when it comes to granting visas from certain countries.
Currently, almost every country in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia require entry-clearance and a visa to enter the UK, even as a tourist. The documents required to obtain a Standard Visitor Visa, which allows the applicant to come to the UK for six months, are extensive.
- a current passport or other travel documentation
- the dates the applicant plans to travel to the UK
- accommodation details
- the applicants current home address and how long they’ve lived there
- contact details of relatives
- annual income
- details of travel history over the past decade
- an employer’s address and telephone number
- the partner of the applicant’s name, date of birth, and passport number
- details of anyone paying for the trip
- the name, address and passport number of any family members the applicant has in the UK
- details of any criminal, civil or immigration offences the applicant has committed
If there are any abnormalities or suspicions, the Home Office has no qualms about refusing visas. Generally, unless there are grounds under human rights law, appealing against the decision is not possible.
Indeed, attempts to step up security in the past by the Home Office have caused controversy because of their perceived discriminatory nature.
In 2013, then-Home Secretary Theresa May proposed a scheme whereby visitors deemed to be high-risk would pay a security bond.
The aim of the scheme was to reduce the number of people from countries perceived to be "high risk" - including India, Pakistan, and Nigeria - remaining within the UK once their short-term visas had expired.
Visitors would have paid a £3,000 cash bond before arriving in the UK - a bond which would be forfeited if they failed to make the return trip.
However, this was abandoned just prior to implementation after it caused “outrage” in India and was seen as blatantly discriminatory by other countries.
Adequate checks are already in place
The UK is already protected from terrorism to some degree by the fact it is not in the Schengen Area - the term which refers to the 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and border control at their mutual borders.
It is also protected by the fact the country is separated from mainland Europe by the English Channel.
There are already robust policies in place to protect citizens from atrocities - the low level of violence attributed to Islamist extremists in the past 15 years is testament to how well they are working.
Politicians like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage only fuel hatred, fear and resentment. And that is exactly what the terrorists want - the more ordinary Muslim people feel discriminated against and marginalised, the greater the volume who can be recruited to carry out their cowardly acts.
Bringing in fear-based policies only lets the fanatics win. And that protects no one.