• Friday, April 19, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Britain to limit migration by family of international students

For the year ending June 2022, net migration reached an all-time high of 504,000

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

BRITAIN on Tuesday (23) announced a package of measures aimed at international students, including a ban on some family members, as ministers come under growing pressure to cut immigration.

After a drop during the pandemic, net migration has been steadily on the rise and is reportedly expected to hit a record high this year.

Official figures published last November estimated net migration to June 2022 at just over 500,000.

Under the new proposals, only students on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes will be able to bring dependants to the UK while they study.

Overseas students will be prevented from switching “out of the student route into work routes” before their studies have been completed.

There will also be “improved and more enforcement activity” and a clamp down on “unscrupulous agents” using education as a cover for immigration, according to a government statement.

Some 136,000 visas were issued to the dependants of international students last year – up eight-fold from the 16,000 in 2019, home secretary Suella Braverman said in a written statement to parliament.

Braverman, a Brexit hardliner whose rhetoric on immigration has caused controversy – said overseas students played an important part in supporting the UK economy.

But she added that it should not come at the cost of the government’s “commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled and therefore provides the most benefit”.

Braverman said the proposals struck the “right balance” and would likely see net migration “fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term”.

Last year, Indian students have for the first time overtaken Chinese as the largest group of foreign students studying in the UK with a massive 273 per cent hike in visas granted over the past few years.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 127,731 (study visa) grants to Indian nationals in the year ending September 2022, an increase of 93,470 (273 per cent) compared to 2019 (34,261).

Chinese students granted 116,476 visas during the period, 2 per cent fewer than the number seen in 2019 (119,231).

Immigration was one of the main battlegrounds of the Brexit referendum in 2016 which saw the UK leave the European Union.

Since 2018, the country has seen thousands of people successfully cross the English Channel in small boats to claim asylum.

More than 45,000 arrived last year, heaping political pressure on the government which promised to “take back control” of Britain’s borders.

Then prime minister Boris Johnson agreed a deal with Rwanda last year to relocate failed asylum seekers to the central African country.

But the scheme has been mired in legal battles and is yet to get underway.

The end of freedom of movement for workers within the EU due to Brexit and tighter immigration rules have also proved controversial for business.

Many sectors that previously relied heavily on EU workers, particularly agriculture and health and social care, have experienced deep skills shortages.

(AFP)

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