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Student visas used to purchase permanent passage to UK

LONDON: A wave of nervousness has swept across thousands of Pakistanis who are here on student visas, following the arrest on Wednesday of some of their country men suspected of being involved in plotting terror activities in Britain.


Last year alone 9,300 students entered the UK from Pakistan.


Many Pakistani youngsters in search of greener pastures and who can afford it, use the UK’s student visa facility to purchase permanent passage to Britain.


In all each one spends about 20,000 pounds (two million rupees approximately) with more than half going for admission and the first semester fee plus visa fees and the rest for one way airfare and boarding and lodging for about three months—the period within which the students hope to land a job, any job.


They drop out after the first semester but remain on a student visa by using all kinds of deceptions and ruses perfected by their predecessors over the years with the help of unscrupulous solicitors.


The crass commercialisation of education in the UK and lax monitoring of dubious paper colleges and non-existent universities whose only concern is the money that they charge as fees make it easier for job seeking student visa ‘purchasers’ from Pakistan to arrive in the UK with no intention of studying.


Only recently have British colleges been told to register with the UK Border Agency. Last month the Agency turned down 460 of the 2,100 colleges which had applied for licences to admit international students, because they were bogus establishments sponsoring students as part of an immigration scam.


There are concerns inside the government and security services that the 11 Pakistani nationals being held in the north of England could have gained entry on student visas in order to form a sleeper cell. Gordon Brown talked of the police having foiled a ‘very big terrorist plot.’


One Whitehall source said the police feared attacks were planned for the Easter weekend.


They said the plot indicated al-Qaeda was adopting new tactics to send ‘clean skins’ – people not known to security services or the police – in from abroad, rather than using British-born terrorists to carry out attacks.


Only last month, immigration minister Phil Woolas described how ‘abuse of the student visa has been the biggest abuse of the system, the major loophole in Britain’s border controls.’


Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said his country could help carry out visa checks, but was not allowed to. He said: ‘It is at your end you have to do something more. Every day we are arresting suspects wherever we find them.’–il


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