Janice Atkinson for The Daily Mail
30th August 2012
Listening to the BBC’s grilling of immigration minister Damian Green, one would think he was here on an illegal visa or a student failing to return to his country of origin, rather than welcoming the fact that the Home Office is conducting a more stringent process of issuing student immigration visas.
The sheer, flagrant corruption of our dysfunctional student visa system is finally being dragged into the daylight. Will any of these students be deported? Don’t bet on it. Stand by for a publicly-funded gold-rush for human rights lawyers, more likely.
Of course the National Union of Students and former Home Office minister, Keith Vaz, are jumping on the bash-the-Government bandwagon.
Does Mr Vaz have anything of substance to say? For instance, how he stemmed the tide of immigration during his government’s tenure, or fortified the student visa scheme to make it more robust?
The NUS’s leader, Liam Burns, is a Labour-supporting physics graduate who could better serve his country and pay back the cost of his degree by seeking employment in the world of science. The UK is crying out for scientists, particularly in his field, and this would be a more laudable use of his talents than playing the champion of overseas students who are abusing our hospitality.
According to the National Union of Students, the industry is worth £12.5bn to the UK export industry. But what is the cost to the UK as a whole through leaky student visas and the failure of a system that allows immigrants to enter the black economy rather than returning to their country of origin after study?
I have no problem with overseas students accessing our universities and paying a premium to do so. The government is getting to grips with the bogus study centres which acted as visa-processing centres. Now they must get to grips with policing who has the right to be here under student visas in reputable universities. If they wish to stay on to work or to take further study, then that has to come under vigorous scrutiny. Vaz and Burns go against strong public opinion and should be more constructive in their criticism.
What makes interesting reading are the numbers and the countries of students applying to study here. One of the criticisms of the government against London Metropolitan University was the failure to assess the level of English required to study here. Of the top 10 non-EU student sending countries, only two had English as their first language: the United States and Canada. According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, the numbers studying by International (non-UK) students in UK HE in 2010-11 totalled 428,225, compared with 405,810 in 2009-10 (an increase of 6 per cent), with the students coming from the following countries:
Today I spoke to my local university who inform me that 7 per cent of their intake is currently from non-EU countries. I asked the principal whether he monitors the movement of his students once they obtain a visa. He said that when the students have left the university this was the job of the UK Border Agency. And therein lies the rub. Who is monitoring these students, who is checking them in and checking them out? The checking in has come under scrutiny, the checking out needs to be addressed – and urgently.
I have been a critic of the Conservative-led Government’s lack of urgency over this country’s immigration crisis – our porous borders, the Government’s tardiness in deporting overseas criminals, and its failure to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
All of this adds to our lack of control over our borders and our determination to decide who has the right to reside in our country.
The Lib Dems are, of course, the roadblock to reform. The Commission on a Bill of Rights established last year as a means of defusing the issue is required to complete its report by the end of this year. However, the members were carefully chosen to achieve approximate parity between those likely to support each of the two opposing positions. Their report is thus unlikely to resolve the conflict, which probably suits Messrs Cameron and Clegg.
In conclusion, I say well done Damian Green – and now let’s get to grips with the Human Rights Act and the expulsion of those with expired student visas.