British Home Secretary Theresa May says the government is working with universities to check visa misuse

British Home Secretary Theresa May says that the immigration restrictions are meant to stop abuse of the system and help genuine students who want to study in the United Kingdom.

Ms May, who was on a visit to Hyderabad, said in an interview to The Hindu that at least 20 per cent of foreign students were overstaying their visa tenure. She said a large number of private colleges that claimed to offer education were not doing so. As many as 350 private colleges were used for backdoor entry to seek work in the U.K.

But she was emphatic that genuine students were welcome in the U.K. and its doors were open for the best talent to pursue higher education, scientific research, arts, music, drama and dance. She said the British government was working with the universities to check misuse of the system.

On the demand for excluding students from Net immigration statistics, she said that it was an internationally agreed measure. Anybody who moved for more than a year would be counted as a migrant. “We need to control migration into U.K.,” she added.

Under the immigration rules that came into force earlier in 2012, non-European Union students, who wish to stay on in the U.K. after completion of their studies, will need to have a firm job offer of a minimum £20,000 a year from a government-approved employer. A number of changes were also made in the immigration rules in relation to non-European Economic Area nationals applying to enter or remain in the U.K. under the family migration route.

Ms May denied that the Net immigration policy was target driven with a view to bringing down the number to 1,00,000 by 2015. She maintained that there were issues with non-EU immigration and that it should not be misunderstood. “We want the best and brightest in U.K.. And that is what the system is intended to enable.”

She disagreed that the immigration rules would affect the U.K.’s economy and said trade with India would double by the year 2015. The government was also listening to businesses on what they want. New routes have been opened for investors and entrepreneurs, she added.

On terror threats

The British Home Secretary said that both the U.K. and India faced common threats on terrorism and organised crime. Both nations were cooperating on security matters and it could be enhanced further in the areas of intelligence-sharing, technology and in identifying and dealing with threats.

Counter radicalisation was another area where Britain could share its learning with India, she said. Counter radicalisation focuses on preventing terrorism, by engaging moderates within a religious community and involving people at various levels instead of depending only on community leaders.

Ms May said the U.K. was looking forward to working with Indian authorities on cyber security. In the U.K., a significant amount was committed to cyber security. The British government also proposed to create a national crime agency by next year.

Ms May dismissed the view that the British government’s proposals on internet monitoring amounted to an intrusion of an individual’s privacy. She asserted that it was a misreading of what the government intended to do. It was not the content which would be monitored but information about communication like who phoned whom, and when and where they were. Only the law was being updated.

venkateshwarlu.k@thehindu.co.in

mallikarjun.y@thehindu.co.in

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