Labour’s new approach to immigration will involve tougher checks on migrants who abuse short-term student visitor visas instead targeting legitimate overseas Tier 4 students, the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper will, according to the Guardian, announce in a speech.
Cooper, who was part of the Labour government that introduced the student visitor visa category, will also make an announcement on reforming access for new migrants to welfare benefits.
Labour has already admitted that it got some things wrong on immigration when it was in government, conceding that it should have introduced the points based system to curb low-skilled migrants from outside Europe earlier and imposed transitional controls on eastern Europeans.
Labour believes action on short-term student visas would allow the fostering of more legitimate graduate students, especially from China and Brazil, to help boost the economy and the university sector. “But we won’t enter an arms race of rhetoric on immigration – and we hope that the prime minister won’t either. That’s not honest, or good for Britain,” Cooper will say in the speech, to be delivered on Thursday at the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank.
The speech details a series of practical measures including tougher enforcement of minimum wage legislation and action against employers who undercut domestic labour by cramming migrants into caravans or using gangmasters who employ illegal migrants.
Cooper will stress the benefits that immigration has brought to Britain – including new ideas, new talents and the hard work that has built some of Britain’s biggest companies, sustained the NHS, kept public transport moving and expanded the science base.
“Last summer the entire nation gathered behind Team GB. A third of the team had parents or grandparents who came from abroad to make Britain their home. And we celebrated the strong, diverse and outward looking culture that we showed off to the world,” she will say.
The government’s target to bring net migration down to below 100,000 a year has led to a 38,000 drop in international students coming to Britain – who in total bring in investment and jobs worth £8bn a year, she will say.
“Everything that is included in net migration is treated as the same while the government tries to bring it down. Everything excluded from the ‘net migration’ measure is being ignored – even if it causes serious problems,” Cooper will say, citing the short-term student visitor visa route as a key example of a category where growing abuse is being ignored and yet is outside the net migration target.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download
Cooper will describe this route, which allows students to come for periods of up to six months, as “the bogus college of the government’s own making that is ripe for abuse,” and will add: “We need stronger checks on short-term student visitor visas – but legitimate higher education students should not be targeted in government action to bring immigration down.”
The student visitor visa involves no minimum level of course for the student and does not need to lead to a qualification: “There are no academic requirements for getting the visa. Applicants don’t have to provide evidence of funds to support themselves nor proof of study at a college No one checks if they study. No one checks if they overstay. And these visas have gone up by 30,000 a year since the election … Yet because ‘student visitors’ aren’t included in the net migration target, the Home Office doesn’t appear to care.”
What Cooper does not say is that the student visitor visa is harder to obtain as it is issued at the discretion of an Entry Clearance Officer (ECO), rather than on the basis of a points score, and that students are not allowed to work.
The vast majority of students want to come to the UK for degree courses, where they will spend up to £60,000 during their stay, and it is these students who are being put off by the current policies under which they are being treated as long term immigrants.
Labour are jumping on the anti-immigration bandwagon instead of defending their policies on students which brought billions of pounds into the UK economy.
Speaking in India last month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told prospective students that Britain will be “incredibly welcoming” to them if they come to this country to study and work.
But UK university leaders, MP’s and business groups warn that the Government’s tough rhetoric on immigration and so called ‘bogus’ students is damaging Britain’s international competitiveness, concerns that are privately shared by some ministers.
In a desperate bid hold back the tide of Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK, ministers are considering ways to restrict access to services like the NHS, social security and public housing, which will be difficult when their hands are tied by EU laws.
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