The debate over UK visa rules has been reopened in parliament at Westminster after seven years.
British MPs have argued that UK immigration policies are discriminating against Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand who still have the Queen as a Head of State, and instead favour European nations.
The heated debate in Parliament followed the release of an analysis report written by Commonwealth Exchange think tank executive director Tim Hewis. The report maintained that Australian migration to the UK has almost halved, from 40,000 in 1999 to 26,000 in 2011, while immigration from EU countries has continually risen. The report attributes this rapid decline to visa restrictions that have been put in place.
MP for Romford Andrew Rosindell led the debate and pushed for the reintroduction of selective immigration in favour of those countries with historical and cultural links, shared rule of law, shared values and language, the Queen as Head of State and common parliamentary and judicial systems, reported Herald Sun.
Rosindell told the House: “Being a subject from one of Her Majesty’s realms or being from a Commonwealth nation should count for something when looking to visit, work, study or live in the United Kingdom. At the moment it appears to count for little.”
He said the UK has lost out on potential opportunities by shunning those with traditional ties and placing “most of our eggs in the EU basket”.
Rosindell asked government to seriously consider bilateral mobility zones between Commonwealth nations, a proposal put forward by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. He further echoed his proposal for a special Commonwealth queue at airports, reported Sky News Australia.
“I feel that it is shameful that subjects of Her Majesty arriving at Heathrow Airport are treated as if they were from any other country in the world… There are no special privileges, nothing whatever, and that is wrong. It is time for us to look at things afresh,” he said.
While several MPs backed Rosindell’s argument, Home Office Minister Karen Bradley, replied on behalf of the government saying that there were still many ways citizens of Commonwealth nations could live and work in the UK, such as with an ancestral visa. She added that her government was actively working with partners in Commonwealth nations on proposals for alternative visa options.
First Secretary of State William Hague told News Corp Australia that there were many visa routes for Australians to visit the UK.
“I do understand Australian concern about that but actually there still are many, many different ways, many visa routes as it were, for Australians to visit the United Kingdom and they’re not all fully used so I would encourage people to look at that in detail, its not difficult at all for Australians to come to the UK,” he said.
“But you are right, we are in the European Union and it has changed in some ways our relations with Australia (but) we will always give attention to concerns of Australians about this, we will always listen to Australian concerns and no doubt may feature in ministerial discussions in the next few weeks.”
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