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One in three visa applications from Pakistan “lacked credibility”

Approximately 10,000 Pakistanis annually granted student visas to Britain; thousands more visit the UK as tourists or business travelers. 22 June 2009. In what could turn out to be an immigration scam with critical implications, a Whitehall `whistleblower’ has 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 `massive irregularities’, in the Britain’s immigration system form a part of a “secret internal report”, `leaked’ to The Sunday Times. What is more shocking is that the report, prepared two years ago, was “effectively shelved” by authorities concerned.

The magnitude of the possible damage already done can be gauged from the fact about 10,000 Pakistan civilians are annually granted student visas to Britain, while thousands more visit the United Kingdom as tourists or business travelers.

The security services believe the possibility of a small minority hoping to carry out terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out.

The disclosure has sent a shock wave not just in the administrative and political circles, but has also raised safety concerns. It has once again brought to the fore the apprehensions shrouding probable terror threats to Britain from illegal Pakistani immigrants.

The UK Border Agency official, who made the report public, himself revealed the report prepared two years ago was ‘effectively shelved’ by senior officials.

He also claimed senior managers ignored the concerns raised by Chris Taylor, an official sent to Pakistan to investigate the issue.

Elaborating on the modus operandi, it was asserted in the report bogus bank accounts and letters of introduction from non-existent British companies were being used for the large scale forgery. At that time, Taylor had hinted at a massive rip-off; and had suggested in the immediate need of a thorough inquiry into the issue. He has also identified some officials “who have issued more than their fair share” of suspect visas; and has also recommended more checks and interviews.

The shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, was quick to react. Even as the Home Office insisted the immigration system had improved significantly since the 2006 account, Grayling described the report as ‘profoundly disturbing’; and added it indeed revealed the chaos in the immigration system. “Given the much publicized terrorism issue in relation to Pakistan, it raises the question that has the government left a gaping loophole in our security?” The Times quoted Grayling, as saying.

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