Indians have supposedly surpassed Africans as the third-largest group of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel to enter the UK illegally, According to a UK media story on Friday that cited Home Office officials.
According to The Times, Home Office officials think Indian students are abusing a system that lets refugees study in the UK and pay significantly lower local tuition rates rather than foreign tuition.
Based on the report, more than 233 migrants from India crossed the English Channel in the previous year, making approximately 250 migrants from India have done so this year alone, making them the 3rd largest cohort after Syrians and Afghans.
According to the report, Home Office officials feel Serbia’s visa-free travel policies for Indians are opening a gateway to Europe.
It states, “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 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”.
Over half (51%) of small boat entries in the first six months of 2022 were from three nationalities: Albanian (18%), Afghan (18%), and Iranian, according to official Home Office statistics released in early November of last year for these illicit Channel crossings (15 per cent).
Indians have not been listed among the nationalities using this illegal route in official statistics up until this point.
Sanam Arora, chair of the Indian student representative group in the UK, 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.”
She said, “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 whom 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,” she added.
Although a government representative informed PTI that the UK’s Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) with India are intended to speed up the expulsion of any illegal migrants, the UK Home Office declined to comment explicitly on the media claim citing sources.
The representative stated, “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,” added the representative.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has listed addressing the issue of unauthorised small boat crossings of the English Channel as one of his top government goals.
The Small Boats Operational Command (SBOC), according to the Home Office, would coordinate operational efforts with France, a neighbouring country, to prevent such crossings, save lives at sea, and guarantee the efficient processing of arrivals in the UK.
Home secretary Suella Braverman‘s decision to refuse to offer Indians any more visa concessions is expected to have a massive impact on the historic economic agreement between the two nations now that the UK Home Office has noted an uptick in Indian migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
With initial theories blaming Serbia’s offer to Indians of visa-free travel, which they feel provided a “gateway” into Europe from which they would continue onward to Britain, she has asked Home Office staff to study what drives Indians to sail to the UK on tiny boats.