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Report: Indians make up a third of migrants crossing into UK illegally from the Channel

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LONDON: An increasing number of Indians are allegedly traveling to Britain illegally on small boats and claiming asylum, partly driven by a desire to bypass international student fees and pay domestic fees, according to a story in the UK’s Times newspaper.
The newspaper alleges, quoting “Home Office officials”, that Serbia’s visa-free travel rule for Indians “was providing a gateway into Europe”. Until January 1, 2023, all Indian passport holders were able to enter Serbia without a visa for up to 30 days. Now they do have to apply for a visa. “Home Office officials believe the arrangement, which ended on January 1 as part of Serbia’s efforts to align with EU visa policies, led to some Indians traveling onward into the EU and subsequently to the UK in small boats,” the report said. A “separate source” told the Times that Indian students were choosing to travel to the UK via small boats rather than applying for an international student visa “because it was cheaper”.
The Times claimed that 250 Indian citizens had crossed the Channels in January 2023, making them the third-largest contingent of illegal migrants, citing the figure as coming from “home office officials”.
The home office told TOI the article was conjecture and based on sources, and that it did not comment on leaks. A total of 1,180 migrants entered the UK on small boats in January 2023, according to data published by the Home Office.
“They believe that Indian students are using a loophole in asylum rules that allows asylum seekers to study in the UK and pay domestic rather than international fees,” the Times said.
Traveling by land across Europe to France and then waiting in the Calais Jungle to pay smugglers to come to the UK on small boats is a well-worn route for illegal migrants to enter the UK. Official home office statistics show that between January and September 2022, around 233 Indians did enter the UK illegally on small boats. In that period they were the 13th-highest number to arrive, with the top three being Albania, Afghanistan and Iran. In 2021, around 67 Indians arrived on this route and in 2020 there were 64 Indians.
Between January and September 2022 in total 33,029 migrants entered the UK on small boats illegally. The numbers have risen sharply every year since 2018 when only 299 made the dangerous crossing. According to a report by the Refugee Council, during 2022 in total 45,746 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats to reach the UK. Of these an estimated 323 were Indian, of which only 10 are predicted to be granted asylum at the initial decision. Of the 233 Indians who arrived up to September 2022, only 3% were granted asylum at the initial decision.
The tuition fees of domestic undergraduate students in the UK is capped at £9,250 (Rs 9 lakh) per year whereas international undergraduate students pay on average £22,000 (Rs 22 lakh) per year, with some fees as high as £38,000 (Rs 38 lakh) per year. In comparison it costs between £3,000 and £4,000 (Rs 3 lakh and Rs 4 lakh) to pay a smuggler to cross the Channel Tunnel. Refugees in Britain can pay domestic fees but asylum seekers are still expected to pay international rates however.
An Afghan asylum-seeker told TOI: “There are no Indians coming on this route. I did not see any on the boats coming over nor at the Calais Jungle. ,
Amit TiwariPresident of the Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK, which has Indian student organizations and societies in over 30 universities across the UK, said: “I genuinely find this very hard to believe and I have not met anyone with this background. These claims are highly questionable and almost slanderous. ,


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