India has called on the UK’s official agencies to ensure the rights of Indian students studying in Britain and to act swiftly to avoid challenges regarding visas.
Union Home Secretary, Ajay Kumar Bhalla stressed to Glyn Williams, Director General for Borders, Immigration, Citizenship and International Strategy at the Home Office, that the omission from the list has seen Indian students encounter problems when trying to access the study visa.
The call comes from the UK government’s decision last year to omit India from a list of nations allowed uncomplicated access to Tier 4 Overseas Student Visas. The choice was met with protests by students and Indian officials who questioned why such a vast democratic country with many of its younger citizens opting to study in Britain was not considered eligible for visa relaxations.
President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), Lord Karan Bilimoria, said the decision to not include India was an “insult” and highlighted Britain’s “economically illiterate and hostile attitude to immigration.”
“India has always been one of Britain’s closest allies and an emerging global economic superpower. Excluding India from this list is myopically short-sighted and is damaging what has always been a special relationship between our countries.”
The National Indian Student and Alumni Union (NISAU) said the omission was disappointing as it de-facto labelled Indian students as “high risk.” Nations deemed low risk included the United States, Canada, New Zealand and China, with China’s addition causing controversy amongst some Indian representatives. President of NISAU UK, Sanam Arora, stated: “this raises the question – will China continue to get even more favourable actions while India gets the rhetoric?”
The UK government claimed India was not included in the original list due to refusing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the return of illegal migrants, dismissing the idea that this would harm a UK-India post-Brexit trade deal in the future. Senior Indian officials stated the time periods suggested for verification purposes of alleged visa overstayers were not long enough for thorough background checks.
Indian High Commissioner Y. K. Sinha reminded the UK: “Indian students contribute immensely, not just to the economy of this country but in terms of their expertise. International students are the best soft power tool that the UK has. Ours is a free country and we believe in the free movement of people. Each country has its own requirements and is free to decide its own immigration policies, but we need to look at the larger picture.”
The Home Office responded that 90 per cent of Indian students who apply for a UK visa are successful, saying: “We issue more visas to students from India than any other country except China and the USA”, and, “we continue to have regular discussions with the Indian government on a range of issues including on visas and UK immigration policy.”[Image credit: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/india-student-protests-growing-160218093802834.html ]