The American government wants to impose travel restrictions on British citizens of Pakistani origin because of concerns about terrorism, according to a report today.
In talks with the British government, the US homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, called for British Pakistanis to apply for a visa before travelling to the US, according to the New York Times.
The newspaper claimed that US officials were concerned about the number of terrorist plots in Britain involving citizens with ties to Pakistan.
It is understood that the British government is resisting any attempts to single out particular ethnic groups for travel restrictions. The Foreign Office has yet to comment on the report.
The NYT provides some context, noting that the US government cites the case of Omar Khyam:
the 25-year-old Mr. Khyam, a Briton of Pakistani descent, also personifies a larger and more immediate concern: as a British citizen, he could have entered the United States without a visa, like many of an estimated 800,000 other Britons of Pakistani origin.
American officials, citing the number of terror plots in Britain involving Britons with ties to Pakistan, expressed concern over the visa loophole. In recent months, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, has opened talks with the government here on how to curb the access of British citizens of Pakistani origin to the United States.
There are of course multiple ways to solve this problem:
Among the options that have been put on the table, according to British officials, was the most onerous option to Britain, that of canceling the entire visa waiver program that allows all Britons entry to the United States without a visa. Another option, politically fraught as it is, would be to single out Britons of Pakistani origin, requiring them to make visa applications for the United States.
Rather than impose any visa restrictions, the British government has told Washington it would prefer if the Americans simply deported Britons who failed screening once they arrived at an airport in the United States, British officials said. The British also screen at their end, and share intelligence with the Americans.
Singling out any specific ethnic group is nothing more than collective punishment. The British proposal is the most reasonable one, but barring that, I say that no Briton should be allowed into Fortress America without a visa application. Of course, that's a rather naive view, isn't it? above all else, we must preserve our double standards.