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British Border Agency Accused of Discriminating Against Pakistanis

Britain's Border Agency might be discriminating against Pakistanis who apply for British visas, according to an independent review of British border controls.

John Vine was appointed by the British government as the independent chief inspector of the United Kingdom Border Agency.

"Pakistani applicants for visas for entry to Britain are required to show a higher evidential standard than applicants for the same visas from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain," said Vine.

Vine says the border agency might be discriminating against Pakistanis, violating Britain's race relations act. If Britain wishes to put those from Pakistan through tougher screening, Vine says, it is a decision that must be made by politicians.

"If the government decides that there is a higher risk posed by nationals from one country, then it can give the authorization to the border agency to impose tougher sanctions," he said. "And if that is the case, then that should be done."

Britain's Immigration Minister Damian Green says the checks are in place to target those who want to obtain a visa through fraudulent means. He says extra scrutiny is given to countries where fraud has been higher.

A Britain-based human-rights lawyer from Pakistan, Amjad Malik, says entering Britain has been increasingly difficult for Pakistanis since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"The war on terror has created a lot of suspicions and problems so that people cannot, for the wrong reasons, enter West and try to create any terrorism offenses," said Malik.

Malik says visa applications for Britain take longer to process for people in Pakistan than elsewhere in the region because they are handed by a regional operation in Abu Dhabi.

Pakistan is the fourth largest source of visa applications to Britain, with 147,000 applications being processed last year.

Inspector Vine's review was completed in May. Immigration Minister Green says 'numerous improvements' have been made since then.