After a large surge in student visa applications from northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal, potential students from these areas will not be allowed to apply for visas for the next month (at least). The decision came after visa applications increased tenfold, leading to fears of widespread fraud and a large backlog:
The director of the legal advice firm, London Immigration Advice and Appeal Services, Harjap Singh Bhangal, says a temporary suspension will prevent illegal immigration, but it will also adversely affect genuine students. He told the BBC: “It’s going to create a panic and we don’t know when this suspension is going to be lifted. I believe it’s for one month initially but it could run into several months.
“The problem that we’re going to have is that the genuine students who want to come over for the universities they’re going to suffer as a result and they won’t be able to get here in time for their courses.” India is currently the UK’s biggest visa operation in the world. More than 500,000 Indians visit the UK every year, among them tens of thousands of students.
I don’t know what the best solution is in situations like this. Obviously some students will lose out, but we know there are severe problems with bogus students coming to Britain and not actually studying. No system will ever be foolproof.
Moreover, many others suffer. Recently the Sikh Channel highlighted the plight of homeless Punjabis in Southall, a number of whom are foreign students. As Manvir Singh recounts:
It was shocking to see that there are at least 100 homeless Panjabis in Southall, and possibly more. There are many reasons why these people are on the streets. One of the reasons is linked to foreign students from India facing desperate times in the UK. These people are living in dustbins, cemeteries, disused garages and under bridges. To cope many have turned to class A Drugs, such as Heroin and Crack Cocaine, as well as other substances. The reason for this is to cope with the cold, to suppress their hunger and to help them sleep on the streets. Many are suffering from serious health conditions such as Hypothermia, Scabies, Gangrene and cannot get immediate medical attention.
Too many of those who apply to study here are tricked by agents in India who promise that they will be able to find a part time job in order to fund their studies:
“Some of them are begging us to send them back but we haven’t got the resources,” Randhawa told the programme. He has sent a message to the local press in Punjab to warn applicants to arrange money and accommodation before setting off.
Nitin Walia reportedly paid an agent nearly 600 pounds to arrange his student visa and spent a further 2480 pounds on college fees and a flight. It took his parents’ entire life savings and money borrowed from relatives to meet the cost. “I feel we have been tricked here,” Walia said.
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