Hundreds of Indian students who come to the UK to pursue courses in colleges are unable to find part-time work to fund their stay and studies here and have been forced to eat in Gurdwaras in Southall.
There has been a three-fold rise in the number of Indian students coming to the UK since the points-based immigration system was introduced in April this year. Many of them come in the hope of finding work so that they can maintain themselves here. A BBC Radio 5 documentary reveals that the situation turns desperate for such students when they cannot find work, and are reluctant to return to Indian for the shame that will follow.
Many such students flock to the gurdwaras in Southall for free food. The documentary, broadcast on Sunday, quoted Nitin Walia, a student who has sought refuge at the gurdwara, as saying, “I can't afford to rent a room, I'm borrowing money from relatives at home just to buy my bus fare to college. I will only be able to rent a room if I can find a job, if I can't find one I will return to India. But that will bring great shame. I don't know how I will return the money I have borrowed.”
Didar Singh Randhawa, President of Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall, said a combination of recession and a surge in the number of students is changing the local landscape. Mr. Randhawa said: “We see hundreds of students hanging out in the streets, but there could be thousands. Most come here every day for food. We are happy to provide food.
“But they also ask for accommodation. If they don’t find anything we provide them with shelter, for a day or two. We can’t keep them for longer. We are hearing that some are sleeping rough.”
Ravi Singh, a Business Management student, said, “Agents in India say you will definitely find a part—time job to fund your studies in the UK. But it’s totally different here, there are no jobs.
“The Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall recently set up a telephone helpline, offering students advice on anything from how to apply for a National Insurance number to buying a travel pass.”
“Some of them are begging us to send them back but we haven’t got the resources,” Mr. Randhawa told the programme.
He has sent a message to the local press in Punjab to warn applicants to arrange money and accommodation before setting off.
Nitin Walia reportedly paid an agent nearly 600 pounds to arrange his student visa and spent a further 2480 pounds on college fees and a flight.
It took his parents’ entire life savings and money borrowed from relatives to meet the cost.
“I feel we have been tricked here,” Mr. Walia said. Shortly after he registered at his college in central London he was told there was not enough space and shifted to another one.
“On the internet the college shows it’s a big campus, but when I got here I saw it’s just one small building with box rooms.
We could find better colleges in India,” Mr. Randhawa told the programme.