Conservative Home posted a useful General Election Brief last weekend which I missed at the time. Immigration is an issue which concerns a lot of people that I meet. It is also a topic that needs to be treated sensitively to ensure that extremists do not prosper on one hand and that debate is not swept under the carpet on the other hand, for fear of causing offence.

David Cameron told Andrew Marr that he favoured a cut in immigration to levels last seen in the nineties, in the tens of thousands rather than the 200,000 peak that we have seen in the last few years. Any cap would be fixed according to economic needs.

Last Saturday, Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling announced a number of measures to crack down on abuse of the student visa system. International students studying in the UK have tripled in number since 1997. The overseas student market is worth £8.5bn to our economy but there are a significant number of students who disappear when in Britain. Measures include:

  1. Only the top universities will be able to fast track students through the immigration system.
  2. Most foreign students will be expected to deposit a £1,000 to £6,000 bond that will only be repaid after the student has finished their studies and left the country. Forfeited bond payments will be used to help pay for deportations.
  3. Student migrants will have to return to their home countries and make a new visa application if they want to switch courses or move to a work permit visa.
  4. There will be a clampdown on foreign students using the existence of UK bank accounts to borrow large amounts of money. There will be clearer requirements for applicants for a student visa to demonstrate ability to fund their studies.
  5. UK citizens associated with bogus colleges will be registered and tracked. 1,925 organisations have been approved by the UK Border Agency to sponsor migrant students but there are only 165 universities and Higher Education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  6. Greater enforcement of existing rules by the Border Police Force including more unannounced raids on colleges suspected to be bogus. There will also be closer inspection of applications from very sensitive countries. An extraordinary 13,000 visa applications from Afgahinistan and Pakistan have not been fraud-checked since October 2008, according to Tory research.

Chris Grayling told the press, “The student visa system is a huge loophole in our border controls, and despite years of promises the Government has completely failed to deal with the problem. This loophole has not only allowed large numbers of people to enter the country who would not have been able to do so otherwise, but is now a genuine security risk for us. In the current climate we cannot possibly go on like this. Our proposals will transform the system, making it much more difficult for those who want to abuse it, whilst encouraging genuine students to come to our colleges and universities.”