Monday, July 05, 2004

UK's recent immigration crackdown may hit Indians - The Economic Times

UK's recent immigration crackdown may hit Indians - The Economic Times
The Economic Times Online
UK's recent immigration crackdown may hit Indians

[ TUESDAY, JULY 06, 2004 02:33:52 AM ]
The recent crackdown in the UK on dubious asylum seekers, section of the overseas students and sham marriages is causing a good amount of concern among the Indian community.

While the argument put forward by the authorities is that tackling immigration abuses is a drain on the national exchequer, Lord Navnit Dholakia, president of the Liberal Democrats in UK, has slammed the government’s plans to stop so-called ‘sham marriages’ as “an attack on minority groups”.

While, a sham marriage is one that is entered into for the purpose of avoiding immigration law, current UK plans allow for a marriage registrar to report suspicions to the Home office if they have reasonable grounds. The new proposals are far more draconian and would require UK registrars to refuse to accept notice from a couple when one party is subject to immigration control.

Attacking the new proposals as "draconian", Lord Navnit Dholakia, said: “There is no dispute that sham marriages are wrong and measures should be taken to combat this back door route of bypassing immigration. However, the Government's plans are simply draconian.”

Meanwhile, instances of violations of immigration rules are manifold. Applicants go to the UK as students, do not enroll in the university at all and instead end up working in fast food restaurants, working with unscrupulous employers at lower wages with a view to evasion of taxes, and dubious consultants arranging fake marriages for people having the agenda of securing their foothold in Britain.

While UK has remained firmly committed to attract genuine students to the UK, the abuse of the system has led to serious rethinking to plug the potential for misuse. British Home Secretary, David Blunkett recently announced a new programme of measures to help prevent abuse of immigration routes to study or marry in the UK. The measures, developed over several months, include an accreditation scheme for genuine colleges and proposals, currently being consulted on with registrars, to restrict authorisation for marriages involving foreign nationals to specialist register offices closely supported by the Immigration Service. There will also be new units bringing together caseworking and immigration service expertise to better analyse intelligence and step up operations against bogus colleges and sham marriages.

The new measures on students are as follows: immediate implementation of a planned investigation into addresses masquerading as educational establishments; an accreditation and a monitoring scheme will be set up to ensure genuine educational establishments are properly registered by the end of the year. Once the list is established, student visas will not be issued to attend colleges not on the list. There is a further requirement to notify the Home Office when students do not turn up for courses and consultation on how best to implement this aspect of the matter. There is a commitment on part of the Government to ensure the process is as non-bureaucratic as possible and including discussions with colleges and how to best implement this proposal. The measures also include creation of more Risk Assessment Units in British Embassies abroad to improve the flow of intelligence of fraud or abuse.

The proposals for consultation on marriages are allowing only designated register offices to authorise marriages involving foreign nationals, working closely with the immigration service. This will enable a targeted, major new enforcement effort against sham marriages; changes to marriage laws to empower registrars to refuse to conduct a marriage suspected to be carried out for the purposes of illegal immigration while it is investigated.

The UK government’s plank of managed migration continues to be firmly in place. This assertion can be supported by the fact that due to an unexpected increase in the number of the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) applications received, it is no longer possible to meet the published timescales for assessing complete applications.

It has been recently reported in one of the lead UK immigration journals that the Immigration Appellate Authorities have been receiving each month around 6,000 asylum appeals, 1,000 `ordinary immigration appeals and 700-900 family visit appeals on a worldwide basis. The last of these appeals, where the appellant has been refused a visa to visit relatives in England, go through a somewhat faster process, since there may be an important family occasion such as a wedding or a funeral which the appellant wants to attend. Lastly, immigration adjudicators hearing immigration appeals are now to be redesignated as `immigration judges’ under current proposals, presumably in recognition of the difficulty and the complexity of their roster.

The author can be contacted at He is a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, London, and American Immigration Lawyers Association. He is also a member of the International Bar Association .


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