Thousands of illegal Indian migrants returned to India from UK

According to a 2012 UK Home Office report, India is among 10 countries that are the main sources of illegal immigration to Britain. The report, which uses the term ‘irregular’ rather than ‘illegal’, says that 5,895 Indian nationals were ordered to leave the UK in 2010, the year the current coalition government took control.

Many more returned than were ordered out. The figure for those illegal Indian immigrants who went back voluntarily for good without telling home office authorities in 2010 was 7,135. However, in the same year nearly 1,800 illegal immigrants (of all nationalities) were allowed to stay back, with their immigration status regularized, because they had been in the UK for more than 14 years.

The report describes the so-called 14-year-rule: “Irregular migrants can apply for leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they can show they have been continuously resident in the UK for 14 years or longer or on the basis that their removal would contravene their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, continuous residence alone is not sufficient to be granted leave. Other factors, such as age, strength of connections to the UK, personal history, domestic circumstances, previous criminal record, and compassionate circumstances will also be considered.”

India has been named along with Pakistan, China, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Brazil and Iran as the main sources of illegal immigration to Britain. These countries made up for 61 per cent of all illegal immigrants caught in Britain in 2010, with India and Nigeria accounting for most of those who were apprehended.

What the report does not mention is how many of the 863,000 illegal migrants that it says are living in the UK are students. This is a contentious area because critics of the coalition government claim it is counting students among overall immigrants. Foreign non-European students became controversial because under the previous Labour government thousands came to Britain with the intention of settling in the country rather than studying.

However, a crackdown on illegal colleges and students appears to be working and government ministers acknowledge that only a tiny proportion of students really overstay their visas or settle down illegally. So, critics say, continuing to include students in overall immigration numbers is a political exercise to show that government policies are working.

It would have been helpful if the study had included figures for the numbers of non-EU citizens who came to the UK on student visas and stayed back illegally. Apparently, the government is working on disaggregating student figures.

The New Year began badly for the government on the issue of foreign students when Indian-born businessman Lord Karan Bilimoria clashed with immigration minister Mark Harper on a BBC programme on immigration. Bilimoria’s basic argument was that the UK government was sending out the wrong signals and risked putting off genuine foreign students by placing a “crude immigration cap” (of cutting net immigration to below 100,000).

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