Yousuf Miah: The system of student visas needs a complete overhaul
Not so long ago, Labour Ministers were falling over themselves to tell us that they have closed nearly 150 “bogus” colleges. These colleges were found to be flouting immigration rules to the extreme in issuing paperwork to help people access visas for entry into Britain. The question Ministers have failed to answer so far is why they have only been condemned as “bogus” now. Isn’t that an admission of failure that the system of checking and issuing licences to the so called colleges has not worked in the first place?
I have written to Ministers on numerous occasions seeking answers about a system that seems unfair, immoral and unforgiving to many thousands of unsuspecting people who come here not to study but to work, often spending thousands of pounds to get here only to realise all too soon that things are far from the rosy picture presented to them by representatives of these colleges. Agents are employed by these “bogus” colleges in places to recruit “students” often charging them an initial fee and then equipping them with a letter from the college and bank statements at extra cost on top of the fees they are being asked to pay legitimately here in the UK.
Britain has issued over 80,000 visas to students mainly from the Asian sub-continent in the past couples of years. The vast majority of these “students” have been processed by third party, clearing companies who are drafted in help speed up the thousands of applications being received by the consular services. Unlike in the past where students have been interviewed by consular staff to ascertain the facts of their applications as well as their competencies in English, most are now simply issued with recommendations for a visa on the basis of them submitting proof of their ability to pay the fees and expenses and a letter from a UK college or university.
Thousands of “students” have been using forged or duplicate documents to gain visas into the UK and the Government still fails to act and do away with the use of clearing firms. Students have arrived in their thousands in recent months, usually to large cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester. Few have arrived here with ability to pay both their fees and living expenses. The first thing they do is seek work to cover their living costs. They have been putting huge pressure on existing communities to both accommodate and employ many of them, adding tremendous pressure on already scarce opportunities in the middle of the worst recession of our times.
So what is motivating this Government’s laissez-faire attitude to student entry into this country? Ministers have been quick to point out that overseas students bring over £2 billion into the economy in fees alone and more than £8 billion a year of other benefits. If we are to simply measure the impact of uncontrolled access to what are often dubious student statuses in monetary value then it is symptomatic of this Government’s short-sightedness.
Issuing visas at this rate is simply unsustainable. It is unfair on unsuspecting people, many of whom are very poor and often pay extortionate sums in return for a visa; and it is criminal behaviour on the part of the Government that criminals are able to set up bogus colleges here in the UK, in the numbers that they have, without the Government having any control of the situation.