Woolas: "These calculations are totally wrong and paint a false picture of our decision making process”
6th July 2009: Even as Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has denied loophole in the immigration procedure, figures obtained by shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling suggest the British immigration officials in Pakistan devote just 11 minutes to scrutinize and pass a visa application.
The figures come in less than a fortnight after questions were initially raised on the checks carried while granting travel permits. A Whitehall `whistleblower’ had, in fact, claimed travel permits were given to thousands of Pakistanis to visit Britain without carrying out even the “most” basic checks; and more than one in every three successful visa applications from Pakistani citizens “lacked credibility”.
The fresh information also suggests the officials are also not verifying supporting evidence in the case of applications from Pakistan, and even from Afghanistan. There is no back up telephone interviews on applications since the controversial out-sourced visa system was put into practice last year.
Statistically speaking, since the new system began operating, there have been 66,415 visa applications, but only 11 entry clearance officers and two managers in Islamabad.
An analysis reveals eight hours a day for 20 days a month will mean dealing with 43 applications daily. As such, it gives them just 11 minutes to make vital security checks before another officer in a separate country decides whether to grant entry to the UK.
Claiming that the system was not good enough, Grayling says it is riddled with holes, and the checks are wholly inadequate. Turning down the reports of loophole in the procedure, Woolas insists: "These calculations are totally wrong and paint a false picture of our decision making process. We have around 200 staff who deal with applications from Pakistan, not 11, and trained officers check 100% of passports submitted with applications in Pakistan."
"Our visa controls are tougher than ever with every application scrutinised, fingerprints taken, and the individuals checked against a range of watch-lists. If there is still any doubt, we can conduct face-to-face interviews," he adds.