A VICAR has accused the government of “immigration paranoia” after his charity worker friends were banned from visiting Britain.

The Rev Andy Lindop, rector of the Ramsbottom and Edenfield team ministry, has been friends with Hansi and Kath Jain since they met 35 years ago while on missionary work in India.

Mrs Jain and her daughter Anu run a school teaching children who live in extreme poverty in the slums of Nagpur, India.

Several churches in England support the school and every four or five years the Jains visit Britain to keep in touch with friends and raise awareness of their work.

But a visit planned for this month had to be cancelled after the UK Border Agency turned down a visa application from the couple.

The agency was not satisfied that the Jains intended to leave the UK at the end of their visit or that they could afford the trip, despite written assurances from the Mr Lindop that he would guarantee meeting their costs.

They say that the Jains have not provided enough information of their personal and financial circumstances, and that Mr Lindop has not supplied information to prove that he could afford to shoulder their costs.

“I am incensed,” said Mr Lindop.

“They are my friends and have been coming to Britain for years. Their life and work are in India and they have always gone home. There is no reason for them not to.

“It seems to me that the government has become so paranoid about illegal immigrants that it now refuses tourist visas to visitors like Kath and Anu. If you are rich you are welcome to come here, but if you are not, you can’t.

“This is a ridiculous decision and I am extremely hurt that my government should question my integrity as well as showing such an inhospitable attitude.”

Mr Lindop is chairman of the Jains’ charity, “Friends of the Inheritors” and fears that the visa ban could adversely affect fundraising for their vital work.

He has now written to Bury North MP David Nuttall hoping to get his support to overturn the visa decision.

Mr Nuttall said: “I feel sorry for this couple because they have visited before, but I will help them to fill in the necessary forms next time.

“It is a bit of bureaucracy but I think most people would accept that people should provide the necessary information before we give out visas.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.

“All applications are considered on their individual merits and according to the evidence provided.

“Applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the UK immigration rules, including personal and financial circumstances.”