Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee has recommended the Government remove international student figures from net migration totals in order to help both the Government achieve their UK immigration goals and the British education industry benefit from international students...read more.
UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has denied claims made by the PCS Union that 1,100 new jobs would be created in exchange for calling off a much publicised strike by UK Border Agency Staff...read more.
The influential Home Affairs Committee has said that UK immigration checks should be relaxed again to prevent extensive queues forming at border security when staff levels return to normal following the Olympic Games...read more.
UK immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK has said that as many as 60% of UK visa applications from Asian and African foreign students should have been refused in 2011...read more.
Home Affairs Committee recommends international students' exclusion from net migration figures
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Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee has recommended the Government remove international student figures from net migration totals in order to help both the Government achieve their UK immigration goals and the British education industry benefit from international students.
The debate whether to remove students from net migration figures has been ongoing for some time; the Conservative Party promised to reduce net migration to the 'tens of thousands' by the next general election and has made changes to UK visa and immigration policies in line with that.
However, the decision to remove post study work rights for graduating international students and the addition of a salary threshold has made it harder for many students to study in the UK. This has resulted in a drop in student visa application rate but some have accused the Government of 'gaming' immigration figures to make it look like they are in line with their goals.
The UK is a world leader in the international education industry - worth up to £8 billion a year - yet unlike its competitors, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is the only country to count international students as long term migrants.
Reports emerged recently that Prime Minister David Cameron was considering removing the students, despite insistence from Immigration Minister Damian Green that this would not happen. However, now the Home Affairs Committee has weighed in, Mr Cameron might be more persuaded.
The committee said reducing the 260,000 strong international student population in the UK by 25% as the Government has pledged to do would not benefit the country while discouraging genuine students from coming would not improve the Government's efforts to tackle abuse of the immigration system.
"[Excluding student figures from net migration totals] will enable the Government to encourage students to come to the UK whilst maintaining their position on curbing immigration," said Keith Vaz, chair of the committee.
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Damian Green rebuts UK immigration job promises
Damian Green dismissed PCS's
claim that 1,100 new jobs are to
UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has denied claims made by the PCS Union that 1,100 new jobs would be created in exchange for calling off a much publicised strike by UK Border Agency Staff.
Speaking to ITV News, Mr Green said there were just 319 vacancies advertised for border security staff but that these were 'just the normal replacement of jobs you get in all big organisations'.
The PCS Union had threatened strike action over cuts to the border staff and intended to call a 24 hour strike on Thursday 25 July, the eve of the Olympic Games when arrivals at British airports are expected to reach record levels but cancelled the plan at the 11th hour after urgent talks.
PCS head Mark Serwotka credited the creation of over 1,000 new jobs as one of the main reasons for cancelling the strike action but Mr Green quickly dismissed these claims.
"There were no new promises made [during negotiations] yesterday," said the minister. "No promises of the creation of new jobs.
"There are 319 vacancies at the moment in the passport service; this is just the normal replacement of jobs you get in all big organisations."
The prospect of a strike at the country's border represented a large threat to the smooth progress of the Games and was roundly condemned by many, a criticism Mr Green echoed, although he also expressed his relief that the action had since been cancelled.
"I'm glad that after a week of militant posturing the union has seen sense. There was clearly not a shred of public support for this strike.
"It makes sense for them to carry on as normal, work as normal and we can all get on with the job we've been doing very well at the borders of welcoming people to the Olympics."
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Home Affairs Committee calls for relaxed UK visa checks
Keith Vaz, chair of the committee
says UK immigration checks
should be relaxed when the Games
The influential Home Affairs Committee has said that UK immigration checks should be relaxed again to prevent extensive queues forming at border security when staff levels return to normal following the Olympic Games.
British airports are expecting record arrivals during the Games and following damning reports of wait times up to three hours during the usual summer peak period, extra staff have been brought in to deal with record levels of arrivals during the Games.
However, the Home Affairs Committee has said UK immigration checks should be relaxed following the Games to avoid a return to the problems seen earlier this summer.
The Home Office ordered a pilot programme last summer which permitted border staff to relax checks for passengers judged to be low risk yet when it emerged border staff went beyond their remit, a scandal ensued which eventually cost UK Border Agency (UKBA) chief Brodie Clark his job.
Mr Clark was accused of relaxing checks beyond his ministerial permission although he contended he did no such thing; the case was eventually settled after an unfair dismissal claim in which Mr Clark was reportedly awarded £250,000.
The extensive delays were attributed to Governmental cuts to border staff combined with a tightening of checks following Mr Clark's dismissal but now the Home Affairs Committee says the pilot programme had been a success despite the scandal and the relaxations should resume.
"I think [ministers] would all like to forget about this episode taking place," said Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee. "The taxpayer has ended up paying the bill for what happened with Brodie Clark. What we just need to make is that the lessons are going to be learned."
Mr Vaz said the committee was recommending the Government reinstate the 'risk-based' approach to security checks which was suspended in the wake of Mr Clark’s dismissal.
"We think the home secretary's decision to suspend the risk-based approached was wrong and we felt that the pilot was successful.
"I think we need to leave it to experienced officers to decide whether or not they need to check everybody 100%. The school party coming from Calais, for example, of under 13s, we don't believe they should be given the same kind of priority as someone who is profiled as being a cause for concern."
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MigrationWatch makes startling UK visa claims
MigrationWatch are outspoken
critics of UK immigration policies.
UK immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK has said that as many as 60% of UK visa applications from Asian and African foreign students should have been refused in 2011.
In total, MigrationWatch UK said 44% of the 141,700 UK visa applications granted in 2011 to international students went to people who had no intention of studying and should never have been allowed entry to the country.
"Bogus students come here to work illegally and thus take jobs from British workers. We now have clear evidence of abuse on a major scale," said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch.
The controversial watchdog said it had found over 63,000 applications which ought to have been refused last year and weren't while rejection rates should have been as high as 59% for Indian, Bangladeshi and Nigerian students and even 62% for Burmese students.
The Government is clamping down on UK immigration and despite protests from many within the education industry, the tough new measures are also affecting student visa policy. The Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a pilot scheme to interview visa applicants and question their intentions within the country.
The international education industry is worth £8 billion a year to the British economy and universities have pleaded with the Government to separate the immigration and education systems.
MigrationWatch says these checks are insufficient to genuinely tackle the issue.
"These half measures simply will not do. The Government have bottled out on bogus students. If they are serious about immigration they must face down the self-interested demands of the high education sector and pursue the public interest."
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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.
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