London Mayor condemns U.K.’s ‘deeply offensive’ visa policy towards Indian students

Sadiq Khan said the need extended well beyond students and tourists

Updated - December 01, 2021 05:59 am IST

Published - June 23, 2018 07:31 pm IST - London

London Mayor Sadiq Khan. File photo

London Mayor Sadiq Khan. File photo

London Mayor Sadiq Khan described as “deeply offensive” the link drawn by the British government between the issue of Indian over-stayers and the decision to exclude Indians from the relaxation of visa documentation requirements for students from a number of countries.

“Anyone who understands how it works will understand that there is not an issue of students not returning home. They pay fees to our universities, they come here and contribute enormously to our economy and after they finish their degree they pay taxes and national insurance...,” he said on the sidelines of the U.K.-India Awards in central London on Friday evening, as he called on the central government to act responsibly.

”The hostile environment is still here and we need real concrete evidence that it is going to change,” he said.

‘Move quickly’

Home Secretary Sajid Javid had pledged to create a system that “welcomes and celebrates people who are here legally”. “When Sajid Javid got the job he claimed he was going to get rid of the hostile environment policies.

 

“Well he can talk the talk but he has to walk the walk and we need to see the hostile environment despatched to the dustbins of policy and that is why it is really important for the government to move quickly to change their policies,” said Mr. Khan.

Mr. Khan has long stressed, including during a visit to India last year, that he wants to keep London open to people from EU and elsewhere beyond Brexit. “As we leave the EU we have to realise we have to use it as an opportunity to build links with those outside the EU — not just students but think about the visitors, think about the business people... the government has to realise India has so much potential. They are equal partners and that if you are a talented Indian, there are other places you can go to instead of the U.K. We have to realise we are competing.”

He said the British government missed the “fantastic opportunity” of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to revise its approach.

“The government has a blind spot about the benefits of immigration and the benefits of the Commonwealth... it’s important for us to continue to lobby the government.”

He said the need extended well beyond students and tourists. He noted how Bollywood was going to other places because visas made filming in the U.K. and London — once a great draw for the film industry — much harder. “If we want to have an optimistic future after Brexit we have to use all the strings in our bow and one string in our bow is the Indian diaspora, but ...[W]hy would you come here if you think you are being treated like a second class visitor?” he remarked.

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