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Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what effects the imposition of a visa requirement on the nationals of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria have had at ports of entry to the United Kingdom particularly with regard to the delays which were experienced on immigration control during 1985 and 1986.

Visa requirements were introduced in October 1986 for nationals of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ghana and on 1 February 1987 for Nigeria. Since introduction there have been very substantial improvements at the Heathrow and Gatwick terminals in easing congestion, reducing delays at peak periods and improving conditions for passengers, their friends and relatives meeting them, and for the staff at the immigration service.In 1986 a total of about 24,000 persons were refused entry and removed; in 1987 the figures had dropped to just over 19,000. Because of the pressure on the control in 1986 many of those who arrived before October were not refused entry and removed until the following year. The fall in the refusal rate is therefore even greater than the apparent 20 per cent.The figures for Heathrow terminal 3 given in the table are illustrative of the reduction in casework at the major terminals dealing with passengers from the five countries.At terminal 4, which also handles intercontinental traffic, the position was very similar. Summer 1986 saw a steady increase in the volume of difficult casework. Some 466 passengers were referred for further examination in June swelling to 847 in the first two weeks in October. By contrast the same figures for the second half of 1987 remained relatively constant varying between extremes of 270 and 316 cases per month. A random sample of passengers arriving on Saturdays during last September revealed that only five passengers from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan were referred to the further examination area whereas 241 such passengers were set aside for further examination on the corresponding four days of September 1986.

Without the visa imposition, and with a 13 per cent. increase in passenger traffic in 1987, pressure on the control at terminal 4 last year would have been intolerable notwithstanding an additional allocation of staff.

Similar improvements were experienced at Heathrow terminal 2 and Gatwick. Of the major ports only Heathrow terminal 1 and Dover did not experience any substantial change in 1987 because nationals of the five countries involved do not use these in substantial number.

Terminal 3

June-July-August 1986

June-July-August 1987

Per cent.

Total passengers898,2591,048,791+17ยท5
Average number of immigration officers available222195-12
Passengers refused admission2,1791,041-52
Passengers referred for secondary examination4,4851,876-58
Members' of Parliament representations94582-91
Passengers with entry clearance who were refused admission3768+83