“This is very disturbing to hear"
More Indians are illegally entering the UK by crossing the English Channel in small boats.
Home Office officials reportedly believe that Indian students are exploiting a policy that allows refugees to study in the UK and pay considerably cheaper tuition rates than overseas tuition.
Data shows that roughly 96% of all study visa grants in 2023 were for non-European students.
Chinese and Indian students accounted for just over half (51%) of all visas issued through September 2022.
For the first time, India has surpassed China as the number one market for students seeking higher education in the UK.
As such, there has been a 273% increase in visa issuances for Indian students between 2019 and 2022.
However, Indians aren’t only taking the study visa route to illegally enter the UK.
According to the data, more than 233 migrants from India crossed the English Channel in 2022. As of 2023, over 250 Indian migrants have illegally entered the UK.
Reportedly, officials from the Home Office believe Serbia’s visa-free travel regulations for Indians are creating a route to Europe.
The officials said: “Until the end of last year, all Indian passport holders were able to enter Serbia without a visa for up to 30 days.
“Home Office officials believe the arrangement, which ended on January 1, 2023, as part of Serbia’s efforts to align with EU (European Union) visa policies, led to some Indians travelling onward into the EU and subsequently to the UK in small boats.”
In the first half of 2022, three nationalities accounted for more than half of small boat entries: Albanians (18%), Afghans (18%), and Iranians (18%).
Indians had not previously been counted among the nations taking this illegal method in official data. But they are now the third largest group crossing the Channel.
The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) has never heard of such an act, according to Sanam Arora, chair of the Indian student representation organisation in the UK.
She said: “This is very disturbing to hear and is the first the NISAU (National Indian Students and Alumni Union) has heard of such an act.
“Indian students are law-abiding, meritorious and very hard-working, and we are worried that such isolated incidents, if true, can reflect badly on the whole community.
“Indian students who have studied in the UK are trailblazers who are setting the future of the India-UK relationship.”
“We’d like to understand details of who these immigrants are and what their motivations for entering the UK in this manner are… no student should ever abuse the UK’s visa system.”
Despite allegations that the Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) will expedite the deportation of any unlawful immigrants, the UK Home Office declined to comment directly on the allegation.
According to a representative: “Our migration deal with India aims to enhance and accelerate the removal of Indian nationals with no right to stay in the UK and secure greater cooperation around organised immigration crime.
“The global migration crisis continues to place an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.
“This is why we are going to introduce legislation which will ensure that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and removed to another country.”
One of the major government priorities for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is to address the issue of unauthorised small boat crossings of the English Channel.
According to the Home Office, to stop such crossings, preserve lives at sea, and ensure the swift processing of arrivals in the UK, the Small Boats Operational Command (SBOC) will coordinate operational efforts with France, a neighbouring nation.
Given that the UK Home Office has seen a rise in Indian migrants crossing the Channel in small boats, Suella Braverman’s decision to refuse to extend student visas to Indians is anticipated to have an impact on the relationship between India and the UK.
Braverman has requested employees at the Home Office to look into the motivations behind Indians who decide to illegally travel to the UK.
An early conclusion has placed blame on Serbia’s provision of visa-free travel to Indians, which they believe provides a “gateway” into Europe.