Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced the suspension of all immigration applications from Romania and Bulgaria as the Government launches an inquiry to investigate claims that certain cases, some potentially false, had been pushed through to clear backlogs in the already clogged system.
The Government seems to be in trouble after the British Consul in Bucharest blew the whistle on what was referred to as "seriously lax controls" which possibly allowed Romanian and Bulgarian migrants to enter the UK with false papers.
Tory leaders are already calling for the resignation of Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes in what has been called "the collapse of the system" although she has refused to step down and apparently has the backing of the Home Secretary.
In an interview on Radio 4 this morning, Home Secretary Blunkett stated "I intend to suspend all applications...from Romania and Bulgaria as from this morning until we get to the bottom of this."
The senior level diplomat who blew the whistle, James Cameron, has already been suspended from his post, and the Home Office has already posted investigators to Romania and Bulgaria.
The diplomat had sent an e-mail to the Tories yesterday expressing concern that migrants were gaining successful entry to the UK despite having false papers. Mr. Cameron also noted that immigration civil servants often lack language skills in order to be able to recognise forged documents, and that in particular UK immigration policy operated at its worst level in Romania and Bulgaria.
Immigration remains a hot issue in the UK with the Labour party being accused by the Conservatives of having a too liberal asylum seeker/ immigration policy.
Other Tory leaders have stated that the Government had known about these false immigration claims for over a year from Romania and can not use ignorance as a defence.
This argument follows a government inquiry into how certain checks were not carried out at the Sheffield immigration centre for the purposes of clearing a backlog there. The whistleblower who exposed this was also later suspended.
Although the Home Secretary has announced that "all applications from Romania and Bulgaria to live in Britain - not just the fast-track ones - will be suspended from today onwards," we suspect that due to a recent scandal involving the pushing through of European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) applications from many of the ten new EU accession countries prior to EU enlargement, this suspension may only come to affect certain types of UK visas.
UPDATE: According to BBC sources, today (31 March 2004), during Prime Minister's Questions, this topic was hotlydebated. As we reported, Home Secretary David Blunkett said yesterday thathe had suspended all visa applications from the two eastern Europeancountries of Romania and Bulgaria. We have now learned that the Home Officelater said that the move only affects a migration scheme for prospectivebusiness people, which is actually the ECAA scheme, as we predicted above.
Furthermore, we have learned from an internal source that ECAA applicationsfrom nationals of these countries applying in the UK will be processed, butheld back until further notice.
Any applications currently with the department will also be held back untilfurther notice.
Please continue to check this site for further information, which will be published here once more details are announced.