Students screwed, 5.5.06

Students from the subcontinent will find it tougher to study in British universities under new immigration laws.

A new point-based system unfairly targets international students because they will lose their right of appeal when denied an entry visa to Britain.

K. Sivagurunathan of KS Law Solicitors, who has successfully represented many appeals in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, said: “Under the current law, if the entry clearance officers refuse an application, applicants can appeal within 28 days to the tribunal. Rights of appeal protect applicants from countries where decisions can often be based on cultural insensitivity or ignorance and prejudice. The highest rates of refusal are from Asia and Africa.”

The Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, likely to be implemented by 2008, takes away this right of appeal. According to home office figures, of the students who appeal against a visa refusal, 25 per cent are successful. And 90 per cent of refusals relating to students who have a valid university admission are overturned on appeal or before it reaches that stage.

Sailesh Mehta said on behalf of the Asian Society of Lawyers: “These figures are staggeringly high… The 2006 Act takes away the right of appeal for students and workers and is likely to limit the right for family visitors and dependents. Therefore, the only redress that was available against a wrong decision has been taken away.

“Many students and workers will be unfairly and wrongly refused entry as a result of this draconian piece of legislation. This is not, unfortunately, an isolated example, but is seen by many human rights lawyers as a part of a trend in legislation which has a negative impact on ethnic minority communities.”

Priti Patel of Ashnorton Solicitors, said: “It is concerning as to whether it is fair that an entry clearance officer should have sole authority to decide whether a person qualifies for entry as a student and this decision will not be open to scrutiny. The argument is that the points-based system will make the decision-making system transparent as the criteria will be points-based and the intention of the person seeking entry will not be assessed as it is now.”

British universities rely on overseas students, mainly from the subcontinent, to meet their budget deficits as these students pay much higher fees than their domestic counterparts.

Universities UK chief executive Diana Warwick said: “Inter-national students and staff are vital to the success of UK higher education. So it is vital for our universities and the economy that the UK offers a truly welcoming and supportive environment for international students and academics to live and work in.”