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More Tory pressure on Theresa May on Indian, non-EU students

May has insisted international students be treated migrants and not as short-term visitors who return after their stay.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2018 20:17 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Indian student numbers coming to the United Kingdom for higher education have halved since 2010.
Indian student numbers coming to the United Kingdom for higher education have halved since 2010.(Representational photo/ Getty Images )

Hobbled by a lack of majority in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under renewed pressure to remove Indian and other non-EU students from overall migration figures, a demand she has resolutely turned down so far.

Universities and other stakeholders have long lobbied the government on this, but as home secretary since 2010 and as prime minister since 2016, May has insisted international students be treated migrants and not as short-term visitors who return after their stay.

An immigration bill to be introduced this year to put in place the post-Brexit system is expected to see an amendment to remove the students from migration figures, with likely support from May’s senior colleagues as well as Labour and other parties.

Removing students from the figures is seen as sending a positive message from Brexit-bound United Kingdom. However, May’s spokesman insisted that the government’s position had not changed, arguing that the international definition of an immigrant was someone who arrives for a period of more than 12 months.

Home secretary Amber Rudd reportedly believes that there are enough potential rebels to inflict a defeat on the government on the bill. Other senior Tories now seeking the removal include Nicky Morgan, Tom Tugendhat, Ruth Davidson and Bob Neill.

Cabinet ministers such as Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Philip Hammond have already made known their opposition to including international students in migration figures, which are used by the government to impose restrictions on non-EU immigration.

Indian student numbers coming to the United Kingdom for higher education have halved since 2010, when the Conservative government put in places measures to implement its manifesto promise to cut annual net migration to “tens of thousands”, instead of “hundreds of thousands”.

Karan Bilimoria, a leading voice on international students, told Hindustan Times: “Simply by removing students from our net migration figures, we could send a hugely positive message to the world. The Prime Minister should do this right now.

“Our Prime Minister says she has a plan to ensure that we remain a successful, global, open and outward-facing nation after Brexit but she continues to have a negative attitude towards international students, turning the clock back on Britain’s progress.”

Senior Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said she hoped May would be persuaded to take action: “I strongly support and have always supported taking students out of the immigration numbers. I think it is an important principle and sends a clear message that Britain wants to welcome students and they are a key part of our culture.”