Foreigners Granted Citizenship At Record High

(Telegraph) – THE NUMBER OF FOREIGNERS being handed a British passport has hit record levels fuelling claims of an open door on immigration.

A total of 203,865 people were granted British citizenship last year – the equivalent of one every three minutes and a 58 per cent jump on the previous year.

Almost another 200,000 migrants were granted settlement after a 30 per cent rise meaning they can stay indefinitely but are not British citizens.

The sharp rise in citizenship will in part have been due to migrants rushing applications in ahead of new rules next year that will make it harder and longer to earn a British passport.

But it will also be seen as a result of Labour’s relaxed immigration policies over the last decade just two weeks after the Government was accused of pursuing a secret policy of encouraging mass immigration for its own political ends.

The release of a previously unseen document suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.

It is the first time annual grants of citizenship have past the 200,000 mark and it dwarfs the previous high of 164,635 in 2007.

It is also more than five times the 37,010 approvals in 1997 when Labour took power and means more than 1.5 million foreigners have been handed a British passport in the intervening period.

In 2008, Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, said those who settle here should apply for citizenship rather than ‘languish in limbo’ by living here but not adapting to the British way of life.

Next summer a new regime of “probationary citizenship” comes in to effect which means migrants may have to be in the country for up to eight years before being granted a passport, instead of the current five years. They will also have to accrue points under the new system by demonstrating they are of benefit or active in the community or have skills it needs.

Of the separate grants of settlement, those linked to jobs rose from 37,000 in 2007 to more than 60,000 in 2008 and 81,000 last year – despite the recession.

The quarterly immigration figures published by the Office for National Statistics, also showed a 30 per cent increase in student visa numbers last year compared to 2008.

In the final three months of 2009, 61,715 student visas were issued – an astonishing rise of 92 per cent on the same period in 2008 – while throughout the year a record 273,610 student visas were issued.

The figures will renew questions over the regime, which critics claim is being abused by illegal immigrants, criminals and potential terrorists.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “These are the last immigration figures before a General Election and it is now clear that immigration has been running out of control throughout the lifetime of this Government.

“Even in a recession with more than two million unemployed the number of work visas issued is going up. So much for British jobs for British workers.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “Public confidence and trust in the migration system has been shattered by decades of mismanagement.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “Asylum applications for the last three months of 2009 were the lowest since the early 1990s.

“Net migration is down, and the new UK Border Agency is increasingly successful.”

“Our border has never been stronger, as shown by the fall in the number of asylum applications.

“Our new flexible points-based system also gives us greater control over those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.”

Failure To Deport Foreign Criminals Costing £60m A Year

(Telegraph) – ONE IN THREE detainees held in immigration centres are now foreign offenders who have finished a jail term but have still not been removed from the country.

In the case of 250 of them it is now more than a year since they ended their sentences but they are still here – at the public’s expense.

The figures make a mockery of Gordon Brown’s pledge, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, that overseas criminals would be deported.

In any one month there are 1,250 former foreign prisoners in an immigration detention estate of around 3,000, which also hold failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

Holding someone in such a facility costs £47,500 a year – some £10,000 more than a prison place – meaning the failure to quickly remove foreign offenders is costing the public some £59.3 million a year.

In July 2007, Mr Brown warned such offenders that “if you commit a crime you will be deported. You play by the rules or you face the consequences”.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Every time this Government makes a promise to improve the immigration system it lets us down.

“Gordon Brown promised “automatic deportation” of foreign criminals, but we have over a thousand of them locked up very expensively in centres not designed to hold hardened criminals, many for over a year.

“This is not only a waste of our money, it is dangerous. The riots and fires we have seen at detention centres in recent years often come about because criminals become the dominant group inside the centre. Ministers try to talk tough on immigration, but they are still, after all this time, acting weakly.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minster, said: “We have made it clear that those who come to the UK and break the rules will not be tolerated. That is why we are removing more foreign criminals than ever before, including a record 5,400 in 2008. Detention is crucial in enforcing removal and protecting the public.”

It emerged last week that more than 100 illegal migrants and foreign prisoners who escaped from removal centres in the last four years are still at large in Britain.

Students Who Break Visa Rules Can Stay In The UK

(Telegraph) – JUDGES ARE UNDERMINING Britain’s immigration controls by allowing students who have flagrantly breached the rules to remain in the country, it can be revealed.

Home Office efforts to prevent foreign students from extending their visas have been overturned by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) even when the immigrants have broken the rules by setting up businesses on the side or working for more hours than they are permitted.

In one case, a female student from Uganda was allowed to carry on studying in Britain even though she had repeatedly failed her examinations with scores as low as 31 per cent, after she told a judge that her poor marks were due in part to her suffering from scabies, the skin condition.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said he was “disappointed” by the tribunal’s rulings.

Student visas are already seen as the weakest link in the immigration system.

The Conservatives have pledged wide-ranging reform if they win the next general election, including forcing some students to pay a bond of up to £2,000 a year which would only be handed back when they complete their course and leave the country.

It comes after revelations about how the AIT allowed Iraqi killer Laith Alani, who has served 19 years in secure hospitals after he stabbed two NHS consultants to death, to remain in the country after his release because he might pose a danger to people in his homeland if deported.

Other dangerous foreign criminals have been allowed to stay in Britain on human rights grounds.

In a new visa case uncovered by this newspaper, a 29-year-old Ghanaian student at the University of Sunderland was caught working as a security guard for more than the permitted 20 hours a week and the Home Office refused his application to remain in Britain.

But he appealed to the AIT, which ruled last September that deporting him would breach his human rights.

Peter Lane, a senior immigration judge, said in his ruling: “The public interest in maintaining an effective immigration control, whilst important, is not a fixity.

“It could well be said that respect for such a system is diminished by permitting the (Home Office’s) decision in the present case to stand.”

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “It is alarming to find that individual judges do not see it as part of their role to enforce immigration controls.

“The all-pervading lack of confidence in the enforcement of immigration rules is only encouraged by this kind of decision.

“The key is to set immigration rules as clearly as possible so that they cannot be weakened by individual court judgements.”

In another case a 32-year-old Turkish man who came to Britain as a student was found by the Home Office to have set up a business, and officials refused his application for further leave to remain in the country as a self-employed person.

The appeal hearing, which also took place last September, was told: “One of the conditions of the appellant’s leave to remain as a student was that he must not engage in business and he was therefore in breach of the conditions of his leave.”

Yet the AIT overruled the Home Office’s decision and ordered that the Turkish café owner should be allowed to remain here.

Another case, heard in November, concerned an Indian student who arrived in Britain in 2007 and applied to extend his visa so he could complete his accounting examinations.

He admitted that he had worked more than 20 hours a week during the summer of 2008 and in February 2009.

Peter Moulden, a senior immigration judge, ruled: “Having worked in breach of conditions is a factor which needs to be taken into account in judging an appellant’s future intentions but it is not of itself conclusive against him.”

The student’s appeal was granted by the AIT, and the Home Office was ordered to reconsider its decision.

The Ugandan student, 30, was refused permission to extend her student visa because she had failed to prove she was making satisfactory progress in her course, as required by the Home Office.

The accounting student had switched colleges and had failed three modules of her course three times each. Two other modules had both been failed twice.

A Home Office lawyer argued that her academic progress had been “painfully slow”.

The student, who was not named, showed the AIT a letter from the NHS confirming an appointment with a dermatology clinic and said suffering scabies had affected her studies.

Kate Eshun, a senior immigration judge, said: “I am prepared to accept that the combination of the scabies and her unsettled immigration status could have affected her progress.

“The appellant is due to take exams in December 2009. She ought to be given a chance to at least prove that she has the ability to pass her exams. It is on that basis that I allow the appellant’s appeal.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, the pressure group, said: “There is a growing understanding, except among the judges, that immigration control is now essential to the future development of our society.

“Decisions of this kind seriously undermine it and render the student route a conveyor belt to permanent residency in Britain.

“With 250,000 students admitted every year from outside the European Union we simply cannot afford to have conditions which have been voluntarily accepted by the students undermined in this extraordinary way.”

Mr Woolas said: “The UK Border Agency vigorously opposes any appeal against our decision to revoke a visa. We are disappointed with the court decisions in these cases.

“We expect all those who come to work or study in the UK to comply with the conditions of their visas. Where we find that they are in breach of these conditions we will take action.”

A spokeswoman for the Tribunals Service said: “AIT judges are independent members of the judiciary who make their decisions based on the evidence provided to them, applying the current law to the facts as they find them.

“If either party believes the tribunals has made an error in its decision, they can apply initially to have the decision reconsidered by the tribunal, or apply to the Administrative Court, and onwards to the Court of Appeal.”

Record Level Of British Population Is Foreign Born

(Telegraph) – MORE THAN ONE IN TEN PEOPLE living in Britain today were born abroad, a record level, new figures show.

The proportion of the population who are foreign-born has almost doubled in the past two decades to 11 per cent, or 6.7 million people.

One of the key factors behind Britain’s population increase has been the flow of migrant workers from Poland, Lithuania and six other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

At the same time, the percentage of children being born to foreign mothers has also reached new levels, reported Jil Matheson, the national statistician.

The Office for National Statistics figures showed that in 2008 some 11 per cent of the population were born abroad, up from around 8 per cent in 2001 and 6.7 per cent in 1991. Figures are not available for 1997 when Labour came to power but, based on trends, is likely to have been just over 7 per cent.

Britain’s population is on course to pass 70 million in around two decades, Ms Matheson warned. She said projections based on past demographic trends suggest a 17 per cent increase in population over the next 25 years to hit 71.6 million by 2033.

It currently stands at 61.4 million and ministers have insisted the landmark total will not be reached.

The figures are likely to fuel recent claims by a former Government adviser that Labour deliberately ran an open-door policy on immigration to radically change the country and “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”.

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, and both his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts will today stage a key debate on immigration.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “This Government has never had any control over immigration numbers. Some Government insiders have said this was a deliberate plot, others claim it was just a mistake.

“Either way they have left our borders unprotected. It is one of the biggest policy failures of the Labour years.”

The number of Eastern European nationals that are resident in Britain has risen sharply from 114,000 in 2001 to 689,000 last year. More than a tenth of them are children.

Immigration is having a double impact on population numbers because as well as those arriving in the country, the proportion of children born here to foreign mothers has also hit a new high.

Some 24 per cent of the births in England and Wales last year – or 170,834 – were to mothers born outside the country, the highest level since records began in 1969.

That is double the 12 per cent in 1990 and the proportion has increased year on year since, according to the Population Trends report, produced by the ONS.

In England alone, the proportion is now as high as 25 per cent.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “The proportion of foreign born people in Britain has almost doubled in 20 years. This is a measure of the way in which our society is being changed without the British public ever having been consulted.

“Immigration on this scale can only add to the strains in our society and the pressure on our public services.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks.

“We cannot know how many people live here if we do not count people out as well as in.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “These population projections do not take into account the impact of future government policies or those Eastern Europeans who came here, contributed, and are now going home.

“Projections are uncertain. For instance in the 1960s they said our population would reach 76 million by the year 2000, this was off target by 16 million.

“And let’s be clear the category ‘foreign born mothers’ includes British people born overseas – such as children whose parents are in the armed forces or those who come to Britain at a very early age.

“Overall, net-migration is falling, showing that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home.”

In October, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, claimed that the sharp increase in migrants over the past 10 years was partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to boost multiculturalism.

He said Labour’s relaxation of controls in 2000-01 was a deliberate plan to “open up the UK to mass migration”, but ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its “core working-class vote”.

It centred on early drafts of a Cabinet Office report in 2000, which allegedly also had passages of possible links between immigration and crime deleted before it was published.

Cabinet ministers have denied any suggestions of “secret plots”.

Immigration Rules Result In Flood Of Bogus Students

(Telegraph) – SERIOUS FLAWS IN IMMIGRATION CONTROLS have been uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph only days after a chief government adviser called for a review of Britain’s student visa system.

Undercover Telegraph reporters have exposed a host of scams offered to foreign nationals desperate to come to Britain as bogus students.

New Home Office immigration rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications and prompted immigration officials to voice their concerns.

Thousands of bogus students are being handed British visas after the Government’s much-heralded reform of the immigration system created a major loophole, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph disclosed.

Whistleblowers within the immigration service have revealed for the first time that rising numbers of student visa applications have created a big global backlog because new Home Office rules left officials powerless to refuse fraudulent applicants.

Undercover reporters in three foreign countries have also exposed a host of fraudulent methods used in attempts to exploit weaknesses in the Home Office’s new “points-based” immigration system.

These include:-

  • Fake “relatives” in Britain offered at $1,000 (£610) each, to make visa applications look more impressive.
  • Under-the-counter loans organised for foreigners to “prove” they can pay course fees and support themselves, although the money is handed back to the lender once it has appeared on bank statements.
  • Immigrants being advised to apply to a legitimate university and then switch to a bogus college once on British soil.

Last week, Professor David Metcalf, the chairman of the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee, said he was “stunned” by the number of colleges allowed to bring students into the country on degree courses despite them being “not proper universities”, and called for the scope of student visa sponsorship to be reviewed. A separate review is already under way after Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, last month called for a rethink of the student visa system.

The situation has worsened to such an extent, and created such a rush of applications, that one foreign government has already raised “concerns” about the points-based system with Home Office ministers, The Sunday Telegraph revealed.

Government officials in the Philippines alerted British consular staff to the large number of poorly-educated citizens who were heading for Britain on study visas.

Theresa Dizon-de Vega, Consul-General at the Philippine Embassy in London, said: “The Ambassador had a very productive discussion recently with minister Phil Woolas and officials of the UK Home Office.

“The Philippine Embassy and the UK Home Office agreed to co-ordinate closely and exchange information and views on various immigration-related concerns including the implementation of the new points-based system of migration.”

It is a major blow for the points-based system (PBS) which was meant to “raise the bar” and reduce the number of immigrants coming to Britain from outside Europe.

Devised by Liam Byrne, the former immigration minister who has since promoted to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the PBS came into force for overseas students in March.

It requires students to have 40 points to come to Britain. Applicants receive 30 points for holding a course offer from a college or university, and 10 points for proving they can pay the fees and support themselves while in the country.

Sources within the UK Border Agency claim the PBS removed the discretion of entry clearance officers in British embassies around the world, who are now forced to approve applications if candidates demonstrate they have 40 points, even if they suspect the applicant is a fraud.

An investigation by the newspaper has exposed widespread abuse by visa agencies in India, China and the Philippines which are advising customers on how to get around the British Government’s requirements, with some admitting that most “students” were simply coming here to work.

One agency in Fazilka, in Punjab, India, made an extraordinary pledge, telling our reporter: “We guarantee an applicant a student visa within a month.”

At another agency based in a cramped, stinking building in Fazilka, close to the Pakistan border, an adviser told a reporter that students in Britain always find a way to work more than the permitted 20 hours a week.

In the Philippines, one agency offered to bolster a visa application by arranging for Filipinos already living in Britain to pose as members of the applicant’s family for $1,000 and also promised that course records could “be arranged” for a fee, even if the student had failed their exams.

The applicant would then be able to secure a place in a British college – winning 30 points required under the PBS – on the basis of fraudulent paperwork.

Agencies in China advised applicants to register with a bona fide language school or university, and then switch to a bogus college once on Britain soil, to make it easier to extend their visa.

Li Wiuling, an agent in Beijing, said: “You can change after you arrive, because the formal ones are expensive.”

She offered a “guaranteed” visa for 40,000 Yuan (£3,500) and promised that anyone who failed to attend their classes in Britain faced little prospect of being discovered.

“There are so many people doing the same thing, they are all fine. There won’t be one risk out of 100,” she said.

Sources in the immigration service estimate that there are 5,000 immigrants in the London area alone who arrived here as bogus students and are working in the black economy, possibly with little intention of ever returning home.

Awareness of the Home Office’s new rules in countries such as China, Pakistan and India has led to student visa applications quadrupling in some areas, generating a global backlog running into tens of thousands, The Sunday Telegraph disclosed. Applications in Sri Lanka and Nepal are also believed to be increasing.

As consular staff struggle to process the mountain of paperwork, the backlog has reached 10,000 applications in Beijing and 6,000 in Bombay, sources told the newspaper.

The Home Office had already acknowledged a backlog of 14,000 applications from Pakistan which Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, officially blamed on computer problems earlier this year.

One source said: “Before the points-based system, Bombay was getting 150 applications a day in the peak application season but now it is getting 600 a day, which is why the backlog has gone up and up.

“At the moment there is massive abuse. The points-based system is utter nonsense and an utter farce.

“Without a shadow of a doubt you are talking about thousands of visas being issued to people who are not legitimate students and simply want to come to Britain and work.”

Insiders estimate that the visa section at the British Consulate in India has received 15,000 to 20,000 extra applications this year while in China there have been an extra 10,000.

Both the Indian and Chinese missions introduced a moratorium on new student applications eight weeks ago which remains in force in both countries. In an indication of the scale of the problem there are no plans to lift either embargo, sources said.

Last month it emerged that the number of student visas issued at Mumbai and New Delhi in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh, was 6,771 between June and August last year, but this year the figure was 19,950.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Ministers should be very worried if the new system is easier to exploit than the old one. They must act to reassure the public, and genuine colleges, that this is not another immigration disaster in the making.

“The borders agency needs to call in all applications that have come through these routes as a matter of urgency.”

A source said: “Under the old system under the Immigration Act, immigration officers could reject an application they believed was not legitimate. They don’t have that ability any more.

“As long as an applicant gets the points there is no flexibility for the entry clearance officer to reject the visa. It’s a terrible loophole.

“The government’s spin was that the PBS would make it much quicker and easier to spot false applications, but it has actually made things much worse.”

A Home Office spokesman denied there was a moratorium on applications and insisted that the rise in student visa numbers was down to the global recession and not the PBS.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “The points-based system ensures that colleges and schools must be licensed to bring in foreign students, inspected by accreditation bodies and the UK Border Agency to ensure they are genuine, and take responsibility for their students.

“Before we tightened controls around 4,000 UK institutions were bringing in international students, this has been reduced to around 2,000.

“We continuously monitor our systems and where improvements can be made we will make them.”