Think tanks, lawmakers condemn discriminatory measure
Britain’s decision to exclude India from reform of its international student visa application process has been widely condemned in Britain, including by the Labour Party, with one think tank describing it as an “act of self-harm” that threatened to push even more Indian students away from British universities.
“The Home Office decision to exclude Indian students from the new immigration rules was a missed opportunity,” said James Kirkup, director of Social Market Foundation think tank, pointing to the sharp decline in Indian student numbers — from 60,322 in September 2010 to 14,081 seven years later.
This was a period during which the number of Indian students studying in America and Canada had risen.
“Discriminatory towards Indian students,” tweeted Diane Abbott, the Labour Party’s spokesperson on Home Affairs. “Will sour relations with one of world’s fastest-growing major economies.”
The controversy comes ahead of an ‘India Week’ summit, with senior politicians from both countries as well industry figures expected to attend. The summit is meant to be focussed on post-Brexit opportunities to build the bilateral relationship as Britain prepares to leave the EU customs union.
Earlier last week, new British Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that doctors and nurses would no longer be included in an annual cap on Tier 2 (general) visas, in what was seen as a positive move for bilateral relations, as many Indian doctors had been previously caught up in visa restrictions.
However, on Friday, as that relaxation was formally presented to Parliament, the government also announced the extension of a programme under which students from certain countries could provide reduced documentation when applying for Tier 4 student visas. The list of countries included China, Bahrain, Indonesia, and the Maldives, but not India.
“They want to show they are open but not too open,” said Gareth Price of international think tank Chatham House. “There are some parts of government that want to be outward looking in the Brexit process and there is the Home Office that is discharged with ensuring a restrictive visa regime.”