Immigration Minister Damian Green has authorised discrimination by visa officers on the basis of nationality. This follows on from a finding last year by John Vine, Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, that visa officers were discriminating against Pakistani visa applicants. See recent coverage here on the blog. Essentially, very different criteria and standards were being applied by the same visa officers depending on whether they were deciding Pakistani cases or other cases at the regional hub in Abu Dhabi.
Rather than trying to eliminate the discrimination, treat all nationalities equally and create a level playing field, the response of the Government has been to institutionalise the discrimination through what is called a Ministerial Authorisation.
The announcement is here and the authorisation itself can be found here. However, what I cannot for the life of me find is the list of countries referred to in the authorisation. I assume as a result that no countries have yet been designated, or can anyone else do any better than me?
The announcement and authorisation state that the list of countries will be reviewed by UKBA quarterly based on certain criteria, and the list must be personally approved by the minister. Interestingly, the list of countries will not therefore be stated in the authorisation itself. UKBA have managed to get themselves into all sorts of trouble with this sort of delegated legislation strategy in the past (BAPIO, Pankina, English UK) so it is slightly surprising they are willing to risk it again. Unless they simply haven’t learned their lesson or, as I suspect, secretly LOVE immigration lawyers and enjoy creating work for us.
In the meantime, until that list of countries shows up — and perhaps even after it shows up — there is a strong argument to say that Pakistani entry clearance appeals should include a race discrimination ground. A discrimination finding in the tribunal will then lead to an award of damages by a county court.