Stricter visa controls are needed in the UK as bogus overseas students cost the taxpayer £500 million a year, according to a new report from a think tank.
Despite more than a 250,000 ‘students’ arriving every year under the Points Based System (PBS), there are no interviews before a visa is issued and no checks are made on their departure, says the report from Migration Watch.
Based on Home Office research, the report estimates that about 32,000 a year join the illegal workforce. In practice, this means that these overstayers are very likely to displace British workers giving rise to substantial hidden costs in the region of £500 million a year.
The number of student arrivals doubled between 2001 and 2008 to 175,000. By March 2010, the year after the introduction of the PBS for students, the total increased dramatically to 235,000. Student applications from Nepal increased by more than 1000%, from Bangladesh by over 300% and from India by 88%.
The report recognises the benefits to the UK of genuine students. It says that they provide revenue for British colleges and associated employment; their expenditure on living costs is a benefit to the economy and to the balance of payments; they add to the variety and energy of the student population and, on return, they have an understanding of our language and culture that will influence them for the rest of their lives.
‘However, problems arise when a student’s real intention is to remain in Britain and work illegally. Some do not even turn up to begin their courses while others stay on afterwards. Here, the balance is quite different,’ said Migration Watch chairman, Sir Andrew Green.
‘By working illegally they take a job that would otherwise be available for a British worker who remains unemployed. The cost to the taxpayer of benefits for the extra unemployed could approach £500 million a year. Such illegal workers also tend to hold down wages at the lower end and enable unscrupulous employers to compete unfairly with honest employers who offer decent wages and conditions,’ he explained.
‘The 2.5 million who are now unemployed have a right to expect that the government will clamp down on bogus students who are taking jobs that should be available to them,’ he added.
Damian Green, the UK’s immigration minister has announced a major crackdown on abuse of the student regime and talks are underway to cut the overall numbers as part of a wider government policy to bring immigration figures down to tens of thousands. A new cap is due to be introduced in April.