Home Secretary Theresa May laid down a hardline approach on immigration at the Conservative Party Conference this week, which has sparked fierce debate. Her comments were met with enthusiastic applause from the Conference audience, but have generally strong criticism from pro-immigration organisations and figures.
International students were included as part of May’s measures for tackling immigration levels, with May claiming they are a major cause of spiralling migrant numbers.
May said in her speech at the conference, “too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out. So I don’t care what the university lobbyists say: The rules must be enforced. Students, yes. Overstayers, no. And the universities must make this happen.”
With regular reminders of Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis, May was unequivocal in emphasising the need to protect Britain and British interests by firming up its migration and border controls.
May’s words drew condemnation from other party leaders, activists, charities, media outlets and businesses alike. There was also a fierce backlash on social media; with one Twitter user describing her words as “chilling” and another said they represented a “worrying view” in reference to the changes surrounding international students.
This all comes after the figures were released which showed that, 30 per cent of prospective 2015 students have opted against enrolling in the UK, despite May claiming that Britain “should try to attract the best talent in the world.”
Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, there has been an increase in regulations regarding international students, with particular scrutiny on attendance levels. Last year, a senior lecturer in Anthropology voiced their concern over staff’s responsibility of recording attendance of international students, claiming it made them an unwilling “arm of the state” that could punish genuine, hardworking students.
Immigration regulations are a key political battleground, and May’s unwavering stance on the issue lead many believe May is involved in a party leadership race—along with the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The full implications of these fresh measures the Home Office are pushing through are yet to be seen. May insists that they are geared towards ensuring a more prosperous and socially cohesive Britain, as “high migration made a cohesive society impossible.”
Responding to the speech, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “While genuine international students in the UK continue to be caught up in efforts to bear down on immigration, it will feed the perception internationally that the UK is closed for business and does not welcome students.
“International students and staff make an enormous contribution to the UK, academically, culturally and economically. Reducing the number of genuine international students would have a substantial and negative impact on towns and cities across the UK, on businesses, jobs, and on our world-class universities.”
Mostafa Rajaai, NUS International Students’ Officer, has called on all students to stand in solidarity with international students by joining a mass walk-out on the 17th November.
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