Up to 500 foreign students of the crisis-hit London Metropolitan University (LMU) could be deported after the UK Border Agency (UKBA) reportedly determined that they had no legal right to stay in Britain because of problems with their visas.

It was not immediately known whether any of the 300 Indian students affected by the crisis was among them.

Last week, the government banned LMU from teaching non-European foreign students, accusing it of harbouring illegal immigrants in the guise of students.

UKBA officials responsible for enforcing visa rules were poring over details of the university’s more than 2,500 non-EU students to assess their eligibility.

Sources were reported as saying that between five and 20 per cent might have to be deported, depending on the seriousness of their offence. “They either have lapsed student visas, the wrong type of visas that don’t allow them to study here, or are studying without any visas. Some will be raided, detained and removed; others will be firmly asked to leave or risk being thrown out,” a source told The Sunday Times.

Legitimate students have three months — until at least December 1 — to find places in other universities or switch to a different category of immigration if they meet the requirements. Otherwise, they would be forced to return home or deported.

New non-EU students planning to travel to Britain to join a course at LMU have been advised to cancel their travel plans.

A notice on the university’s website said: “On Monday 3 September, we will email every affected international student with further information.”

The government has set up a taskforce to help the stranded students find alternative places. Universities’ Minister David Willetts said it was “important that genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own are offered prompt advice and help, including, if necessary, with finding other institutions at which to finish their studies.”

In a detailed guidance, the UKBA said: “You do not need to do anything immediately. We will write to you after 1 October. We will ensure that you have 60 days to make a new student application or to arrange to leave the U.K. This 60 days will start from the date we write to you. If you are a genuine student who meets the requirements to study in the U.K. under Tier 4 of the points-based system, the task force will try to help you to find another licensed education provider to sponsor you before your 60 days expire. If you are successful, you will then be able to continue your studies in the U.K. with this new education provider.”

Several universities were reported to have offered places to the affected students.

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