29 September 2011

Foreign students reported for UK visa breaches by the thousands

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Newly released figures show that tens of thousands of international students have been reported by their education providers for alleged UK visa breaches

UK visa

More than 1500 foreign students in the UK are being reported each month for suspicions about visa status

Figures released by the Manifesto Club and obtained under Freedom of Information indicate that more than 1500 students are being reported to UK immigration authorities by academics and tertiary education staff each month for suspicions over UK visa status.

At least 27,000 foreigners studying in the UK were reported to the UK Border Agency between March 2009 and 2010.  This is a considerable percentage of the 228,000 foreigners that came to UK for study last year.

The figures have sparked debate over the role of educators in reported perceived visa breaches. Migration Club - a group that, according to its website, "campaigns against hyperregulation of everyday life" - argues it should not be the role of universities to monitor compliance with immigration laws.

"Visa rules have led to a massive extension of surveillance on campus, and a humiliating and hostile experience for international academics and students." the group says.

Manifesto Club Director Josie Appleton told the BBC that current immigration policy and procedure forces academic staff to perform a border protection function.

"Academics are not border agents and they should not be dragooned into spying on their students," she said.

"The UKBA now has rights of entry to any university campus, which is a major threat to academic autonomy.  We call for a more proportionate system, which recognises the historic autonomy of the university".

This position is supported by the University and College Union which represents the interests of academic staff in the UK.

"Successive governments have had plans to turn lecturers into spooks overwhelmingly rejected by the academic community," said the union's General Secretary Sally Hunt.

The UK Government maintains that universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure foreign students comply with immigration law

"There has been widespread abuse of the visa system for too long and we have made radical changes in order to make the system more rigorous and accountable," a UKBA spokesperson said.

"We expect education providers who are sponsoring foreign students to make the necessary checks".

UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their Life in the UK test.

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