Last year British Prime Minister, Theresa May came to India to promote her ‘open for business’ agenda in the wake of the Brexit vote. Given her much stated slogan that, free from European Union shackles the United Kingdom could embrace the rest of the world, most here expected that trade ties would be top of her agenda. Not so.
Instead the locals got a lecture about the number of Indian nationals in the UK who had over-stayed their visas and demands that New Delhi put more pressure on them to come home.
The Prime Minister’s outburst left many in her audience wondering exactly how it was India’s responsibility to round up illegals and over-stayers in another country. From her remarks it appeared she believed there were tens of thousands of Indian students and others, crowding into ghettos, straining welfare services, taking jobs from the indigenous population.
Yet a new report, published this month by her own Government, says exactly the opposite. The vast majority of Indians in the UK leave well before their visa expires. In fact, Indians have one of the highest visa compliance rates among non-EU people living in Britain.
Interestingly, the number who do the right thing (97 per cent) are part of a declining overall figure of Indians coming to the UK in the first place — a reduction of 50 per cent in student numbers since 2010.
This is largely because of the closure of hundreds of so-called colleges that purported to offer academic courses, but were actually a back-door way of getting people into the country who could then ‘disappear’ into the low-paid, illegal workforce.
These bogus institutions have tarnished the UK’s reputation as an educational provider to the extent that genuine Indian students are now looking elsewhere.
The new figures show May is more obsessed with a ‘Britain for the British’ agenda rather than negotiating a reasonable deal on non-British citizens in her country.
She prefers to ignore the fact that without the contribution of Indians and other Asians, a good number of UK institutions, most notably the National Health Service, would come close to collapse.
This was emphasised by a member of May’s own Conservative Party in the House of Lords, Jitesh Gadhia, who said Indian visitors, students and workers brought “huge benefits” to the UK through their purchasing power, academic contributions and skill sets.
“The UK Government should now have much greater confidence in providing Indian visitors, students and skilled workers with favourable access terms which are not discriminatory in any way,” Baron Gadhia said.
Something that is unlikely to happen soon given the ideological orientation of those occupying the Front Bench in the Lower House.