The man set to be the first ethnic minority Mayor of London has slammed David Cameron’s continued crackdown on foreign students.
Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, who won a resounding victory to become the Labour Party’s Mayoral candidate in the 2016 race, described the government’s decision to include international students in immigration calculations as “silly”.
“As Mayor, I’ll stand up to the silly visa restrictions this Government have placed on students”, Mr Khan said.
“Students are not immigrants, and it’s about time Ministers realized this”, he added.
The government and Home Secretary Theresa May have been widely criticized for its crackdown on international students from outside the European Union.
Student numbers from the South Asian sub-continent, for instance, have seen a dramatic decline in recent years in the face of increasingly draconian regulations as Mr Cameron attempts to cut down on net migration which rose to a record 330,000 last year, spurred mainly by rising migration from Europe.
On Wednesday it emerged that international students were suffering “harsh and unjustified” refusals by Home Office officials after being accepted at top UK universities.
The Times reported that one in ten non-European Union students were refused student visas in the past two years over concerns over what the Home Office termed their “credibility”.
Some 250,000 “credibility interviews” were conducted on prospective non-EU students in the same period and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) said it had received a “substantial increase” in reports of visa refusals on grounds of “credibility”.
Reasons given to UKCISA by students whose visas were refused included “not knowing the number of students likely to be in a class”, “not knowing exam dates” and “being told that studying to be a dietician is an unlikely plan as there is no demand for that expertise in Syria”.
The government is also said to be considering introducing more conditions that will have to be met by universities that want to continue sponsoring international students who contribute billions to the British economy.
Sadiq Khan is the latest high-profile figure to criticize the government’s crackdown on international students.
Business leaders such as James Dyson and Cobra beer tycoon Karan Bilimoria are among those who say that the government’s policies are harming the British economy and damaging perceptions about the country overseas.
Lord Bilimoria, who was recently appointed chair of UKCISA, even went so as to tell the UKAsian last month that Home Secretary Theresa May was “economically illiterate” when it comes to immigration.
Mr Khan, the son of a South Asian migrant who worked as a human rights lawyer before entering politics, made his comments during a speech to the Indian Institute of Directors in London this week.
He praised the contribution made by Indian migrants in the UK and said he would work towards an even more “open” London if he is elected Mayor next year.
“This great city is built on trade. It’s openness to people, ideas and commerce has for centuries been the engine of growth that propelled London – and the U.K. – to its position as one of the world’s most important markets.
“Indeed, in a world that’s increasingly globalised and interconnected, London has cemented its position as the pre-eminent, most international city on the planet. But it’s absolutely crucial we don’t rest on our laurels”, Mr Khan said.