Fake colleges helped many enter UK illegally: MPs

Tens of thousands of people may have entered Britain on fraudulently obtained student visas, legislators said today.
Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee investigated “bogus colleges” after The Times newspaper reported that at least one of 12 men held in counter-terrorism raids across northwest England in April was a student at a college that sold places on fake courses to foreign nationals seeking entry to Britain, Reuters reports.
The 12, including 10 Pakistani nationals, were later released without charge, although most still face deportation from Britain.
Since the law was tightened in March, international students may only apply for a visa if they are sponsored by a college registered with the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for immigration issues.
However, the committee said it was concerned about the number of illegal immigrants who may already have entered Britain on fraudulent student visas before the rules were tightened up.
“The numbers of these could be in the tens of thousands,” the committee said in a report.
It urged the government to take firm action against people whose student visas had expired, making sure they leave Britain.
The committee said it suspected that a significant proportion of the 2,200 colleges that had not won a place on the new list of approved colleges were “not legitimate.”
However, the committee said it had found no substantial evidence of any link between bogus colleges and terrorism.
“Our evidence suggested that most individuals entering the UK on fraudulently obtained student visas do so in order to work illegally,” it said.
Responding to the report, Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the recent tightening of the rules meant only genuine foreign students could travel to Britain.
“No institution can bring students into the country unless we are satisfied they are genuine. Since April, the UK Border Agency has carried out nearly 100 unannounced checks on institutions throughout the UK and they are doing more every week,” he said in a statement.