Bogus foreign students free to flout new laws
Home Office fails to vet hundreds of colleges
Richard Ford and Andrew Norfolk
From The Times
April 15, 2009
Thousands of bogus students remain free to enter Britain despite new laws aimed at tightening controls on immigration. The Times has learnt that hundreds of colleges recently approved by the Home Office to accept non-EU students have not been inspected by its officers.
Weaknesses in the student visa system have emerged following the arrest of 12 terror suspects last week. Ten of the men entered this country from Pakistan on student visas.
It has also emerged that the vast majority of non-EU students will not be interviewed by the Home Office but admitted on the basis of written applications and evidence of sponsorship, educational qualifications and bank statements.
Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: The more we learn about the way the Government has managed our student visa system, the more question marks there are.
John Tincey, the chairman of the Immigration Service Union, said that the failure to include interviews could be exploited by terrorists.
Under the system, universities, colleges and schools must register with the Home Office to accept students from outside the EU. They must agree to alert the Home Office if a student fails to register, stops attending classes or if a course is shortened and keep copies of the students passports as well as up-to-date contact addresses.
The new regime came in two weeks ago and is intended to end a scam in which thousands of foreigners enrolled at bogus colleges to work here. So far, 2,100 establishments have been registered and 400 rejected. There are 14,000 establishments on an earlier database that need to register.
Today The Times highlights the abuses under the old regime, described by the Immigration Minister as the Achilles heel of the system.
At one college in Manchester that claims to have more than 100 students most of them from North West Frontier Province in Pakistan only two turned up for classes yesterday.
An international college in London with links to Pakistani businessmen was raided by the police and the UK Border Agency in December. It was alleged that individuals attached to the college earned 5 million processing up to 2,500 fraudulent visa applications.
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