UKBA’s new rules allowed extra 50,000 fake students into Britain
MPs have strongly criticised the UK Border Agency after the chaos caused by changes in the students visas’ system allowed an extra 50,000 fake students into Britain to work rather that study.
The PAC (Public Accounts Committee) stated in a report published on Monday that, following the introduction of new rules for overseas students in 2009, controls were not enforced properly. The failure of introducing mandatory electronic checks on licensed sponsors allowed the system to be abused by fake students and bogus colleges as sponsorship could be “easily forged”.
The publication of this report comes just one week after London Metropolitan University (LMU) lost its right to teach and recruit students from outside the EU.
An audit commissioned by the UKBA (UK Border Agency) discovered more than one quarter of international students were not entitled to stay in the UK. It also emerged that a significant proportion of international students at LMU could not speak English at a satisfactory level. Moreover the University did not have a system in place to check attendance to lectures.
The decision to strip LMU of its teaching rights for overseas students will affect up to 2,700 people whose educational future is now uncertain. The affected students will start receiving letters from UKBA on 1st October and will be given days to leave the country or to find another university at which to complete their course.
This situation has caused a stir between the government and the University, with the latter launching legal action against the UK Border Agency.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn commented: “The image around the world is one that is really quite appalling because it suggests that overseas students may well be deported from this country because of a decision made by UKBA for which there is no detail given as to the basis of that decision.”
Since the introduction of new regulations in 2009, the responsibility for testing whether applicants were complying with their visa conditions had been transferred onto sponsoring institutions.
Margaret Hodge – Labour MP and chair of PAC – confirmed: “The result of the UKBA’s poorly planned and ill-thought out course of action was chaos: an immediate high level of abuse of the new system and a surge in the number of student visas.”
However, Immigration Minister Damien Green said that results of stricter immigration rules were evident: “We have already seen the number of student visas issued drop by 30% in the twelve months to June 2012, compared with the same period in 2011, and recent enforcement action has seen four hundred overstayer students leave the London area and return home “