The Indian Workers Association (GB) ,in an appeal to the British Parliament seeks to help them in bringing about changes in legislation and practice to safeguard the interests of international students especially from India in Great Britain. IWA appeal highlights the necessity of immediate action towards ensuring the well being of international students in the UK,one of the most expensive study destinations in the world.
Key issues stated are
Agents under the auspicious of higher authority have opened offices in many cities in different Indian States especially in Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala. They advertise their agencies by displaying poster on the walls, lamp post, in the press, on radio, television and internet attracting students to take admission in British colleges and universities. They usually are shown picture gallery of the campuses and accommodation halls they will potentially be residing in once they arrive at the college of their choice. The picture gallery of campuses shown are usually of high standard universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and many others. The potential students’ dream for a better life is seriously exploited and they are charged a huge amount of money (their parents often have to borrow on a very high interest rate) as administration fee for a student visa. They are lead to believe that they will earn so much that they will be able to save a larger amount to what they had paid within six months. These potential students are not made aware of the cost of living in Britain.
Students arrive into Britain with high hopes only to find their college being in a room on top of a fish and chips shop, in a side room of a factory and even in back of a lorry, when lorry moves the college moves with it. Though, shocked, surprised and having feelings of hopelessness, not knowing who to turn to, left with no choice but to take admission in these so called colleges paying a large amount in admission fees, once again borrowed money by their parents.
BOGUS COLLEGE’ S
The colleges mentioned above are accredited by the Education Department and have web sites, advertise in the press (stating the accredited number) the courses they offer. They charge foreign student fees, run the courses for up to six months then close the college showing bankruptcy only to open another one under different name and in a different place. There are a hundreds of such bogus colleges all over the country. The admin officers or the tutors advise students another college they could take admission at. This clearly shows the business network of such practices. Again overseas students do not know who to turn to for guidance and are left with no choice but to take admission in a recommended college. Due to the condition of the student visa, they are required to notify the UKBA every time they change college for which a payment of fee is charged for renewal of their visa.
IWA would like to know:
- How do these colleges get accreditation?
- How do they meet the rule and regulations before they are accredited?
- How do these colleges meet the health and safety executive rules and regulations?
- Are these college buildings inspected?
- Do these colleges and the course they run have a required yearly inspection or they are exempted from such inspection? Or are these colleges not reachable by the Inspection Authorities because they are closed before time for inspection.
- If none of the above requirements are met then not only the students are financially exploited their safety is compromised that in our opinion is a criminal offence.
- Is the higher Authority not aware of this practice or are they keeping a blind eye?
- If the higher authority is aware then what action, if any, are they taking against such practices?
As has been said above that the students when they are recruited are promised high standard accommodation usually in the university halls. To add to their surprise they find themselves homeless. Those who are lucky enough to have a relative in Britain sometimes are accommodated for a limited period and those with no relations are left to roam around in British streets living rough. The agents who had recruited them are nowhere to be found. Neither do they answer the phone calls nor have they given the right address. So they cannot be traced. A documentary produced by an Asian Television Channel highlighted many problems foreign students are facing including the conditions in which they are forced to live. In Southall – west London – both, young men and women living together under the bridges often in bitter cold, some living in squalid conditions occupying boarded up public houses.
These overseas students are not always in a position to find a job especially in the economic climate we are currently living in. In order to earn their living many are left with no choice but to commit petty crimes such as shop lifting, mugging to serious crime such as burglary, selling drugs. Many turn to alcohol, drugs and prostitution while many other become victims of crime such as rape. They are frightened to approach criminal justice system in fear of deportation.
After spending so much money to obtain a visa and subsequent cost in payment of fees for the courses they find feel unable to go back to their home country without a single certificate with them. Therefore they continue to live in harsh conditions that lead them to enter illegal activities they may never have thought about doing.
A number of students, who end up on the streets, are unable to access Health Service because they do not have a fix aboard and therefore they cannot register with a G.P., Consequently some of them become seriously ill as was highlighted by the documentary.
IWA (GB) would like all students to be provided with basic human rights that the rest of us in Britain take for granted:
- Since these students are legal immigrants and came through proper and legal channels, it is important that they have all the citizen’s rights enjoyed by other British citizens.
- They must have an access to educational opportunity they came to this country for and for which they have paid thousands of pound in fees and other costs. So that they may return home with dignity not with feelings of guilt.
- All students must be provided all the living facilities for a dignified life while in Britain
- They must be provided habitable accommodation.
- They should have access to health service
- All the colleges applying for accreditation must meet all the Rules and Regulation and they must have CRB check. The buildings where these colleges run from must be inspected. So that no one attempts to open one at top of a shop or back of a lorry. Moreover these colleges must be regulated.
- All the bogus colleges must be clamped down and prosecuted.
- All fees paid in advance must be deposited in a regulated clients account similar to landlords, estate agents, solicitors and other professional bodies. This money should not become accessible to the credited education institution until after the completion of the course. Parliamentary change in legislation to be brought about to extend the current provision applicable to other professional bodies.
- When colleges declare bankruptcy, the students must not be left to bear the cost; there fees and other expenses must be paid back so that they can use that money to take admission in another college.
- Not a single student should be pushed into a position where they find themselves helpless and in order make a living forced into criminal activities.
The campaign is supported by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Association of Indian Women, Student, Youth and religious organisations. More details can be obtained from Harsev Bains,General Secretary of Indian Workers Association (GB) T: 07956 811553 e mail : firstname.lastname@example.org