Letters: Foreign students in border fiasco


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I am a former Metropolitan Police border control officer and have witnessed some amazing decisions in relation to the admission of bogus students.

There should be two major barriers to bogus students. The first is visa issue; the second should be the UK border control as the student arrives. UK visa issue has been subject to cost cutting to the extent that virtually no visa applicants are interviewed. Everything is paper/email based.

Despite the rhetoric, a student re-entering the UK after a holiday who is discovered as bogus by the UK Border Force officer (for example, he is barely literate) is still allowed an "in-country" right of appeal. Thus, he or she is allowed in and told to report back for interview and further enquiries. Virtually no bogus students who are discovered in this way are eventually removed.

Genuine foreign students are often treated appallingly, especially in their dealings with the Home Office. Phone inquiries are a nightmare. Callers have to wait endlessly. If they are lucky enough to speak to a real person, while some staff are helpful and sympathetic, others are openly hostile. Foreign students are also likely to be stopped by UKBA enforcement officers at "pinch points" such as underground stations while their status is checked.

The situation in respect of London Metropolitan University has been known for years, and while it is right that their status be withdrawn, surely those genuine students present should be allowed to complete their courses without undergoing the stress that this situation creates.

Those who enter the UK as bogus students should have been weeded out by the visa system, and this shows how ineffective that system is, thanks to cost-cutting abroad together with a culture that treats visa issue as a means of cash generation rather than border protection.

The Government are now in real danger of throwing lucrative genuine foreign students out with the bogus student bathwater.

Chris Hobbs

London W7

Does this government want to destroy the higher education system in this country?

The decision to remove the licence from the London Metropolitan University regarding overseas students sends out a message across the world not to come to Britain. Students will now look to the US, Canada and other European countries to further their studies.

When this is added to the increase in fees for domestic students, where does that leave further education? A once buoyant sector will be turned into a series of half-empty buildings occupied by a few rich kids.

Paul Donovan

London E11

Is Barclays boss really worth 300 of the rest of us?

Antony Jenkins, the new CEO of Barclays Bank, will have a basic salary of £1.1m, with a potential annual bonus of £2.5m, and another £4.4m on offer if he achieves longer-term targets. That's a total £8m he could be trousering each year, equivalent to over 300 times the average UK income.

OK, so it's tough at the top. Hard decisions have to be taken, in and out of hours. But is his job really 300 times harder than that of the average worker?

The BBC helpfully consulted an "industry analyst", who said he thought it was reasonable given the pressures involved. Asked to give an example, he said: "Well, you might be having tea at home on a Sunday afternoon, and the phone rings from Hong Kong about a deal that has gone wrong; or you might have to take a phone call late at night just before going to bed."

Does he really have so little idea what life is like for the rest of us, or is he just totally shameless?

Simon Prentis

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The Tory MP Bernard Jenkin has disinterred that decomposing doggerel "the politics of envy" in response to Nick Clegg's cheeky idea that asking the UK's wealthiest to pay more tax might put a modest dent in the debt and relieve some pressure on public services.

Mr Jenkin's banality is routinely regurgitated by the wealthy few whenever the straitened many dare register pleas for greater fairness.But where's it written that a natural feeling of affront over the iniquities of engineered social imbalance should be characterised as envy?

Although Britain's overall wealth still far exceeds its deficit, the riches are piled into the coffers of a diminishing elite: beneficiaries of a political largesse designed to ensure that the wretched 99 per cent pick up the tab for the financial frivolities of the one.

It would take robust political will indeed to force the wealthy to pay their due. It certainly won't happen under any Conservative-dominated government. The tragedy is that we can't rely on Labour to do the right thing either.

Richard Butterworth

Redruth, Cornwall

Lift poor farmers out of hunger

The growing pressure on the G20 to tackle food price spikes is welcome ("Vatican urges G20 to convene crisis summit on food prices", 24 August). But all previous attempts by the G20 to stabilise food security have refused to tackle the underlying factors determining who goes hungry in our world, which is why Archbishop Tomasi's focus on structural causes is vital.

The G20 must first address the devastating implications of price hikes for poor smallholder farmers. As businesses, they gain little profit as they have insufficient access to markets. As consumers, the price hikes they face for seeds and other basic goods drastically affect their viability and mean they cannot invest for the future. With the right support (not just any support) these small farmers could produce more food, help keep prices low, and play a vital role in reducing hunger in developing countries. Current aid, investment and advice is not sufficiently targeted to empower these important economic players; and policies which respond to smallholder farmers' needs, including price stability, remain on the shelf. Their potential remains unrealised.

This policy blind-spot must be addressed: the G20 needs to stop thinking of smallholders as subsistence farmers in need of charity, but as viable businesses with real potential to transform the global food system and tackle hunger. Until they do, the food crisis cannot be solved.

Sarah Montgomery

Economic Justice Policy Analyst, Cafod, London SE1

You analyse the crisis in world food supply (23 August) with no mention of world food demand and population growth. The front page picture is of Niger, with the fastest growth rate in the world. The UN estimates its population of 16 million will be 55 million by 2050. Does anyone really believe Niger could feed this number 38 years from now, even without climate change and peak oil?

Stabilising Niger's population as soon as possible, with very high priority for voluntary family planning, is an essential element in any credible food security programme.

Roger Martin

Chair, Population Matters, Wells, Somerset

No honour in this system

With regard to Viv Groskop's comments on the honours system ("Don't honour Olympians just for doing their job", 30 August), it has never been apparent to me why sports stars, celebrities or captains of industry should receive honours for doing jobs which they presumably enjoy and get well remunerated for doing already.

If a state must hand out medals and titles, then it should only be for the highest acts of bravery, selflessness and valour; where people have risked life and limb, or disadvantaged their own lives to help advance the lives of others.

The distribution of honours is a reflection of the moribund state of our body politic. Businessmen are ennobled for their ability to funnel large sums of cash into party coffers – down payments on future personal and business advancement. Sports stars and celebrities are rewarded, in the hope that some of the lustre will rub off on our tarnished politicians. Such rewards cheapen the efforts of those who genuinely deserve recognition.

It is time to do away with our honours system, a hangover from feudal and imperial times; its arcane titles and medals remain the beating heart of the class system which still bedevils Britain in the 21st century.

Barry Richards


Time for a long adjournment

The news that the House of Commons needs major overhaul at considerable expense seems to be an opportunity for drastic action.

The option to move across the road to the Queen Elizabeth Centre seems modest. Why not send all the MPs home to work online ? Better still why not send them all away to get other jobs and let the Civil Service run the country for five years? The money saved might well pay for the refurbishment and at the end of five years we could reassess whether we need the parliamentary system in its current form at all.

Peter Brunyate

Marshfield, Gloucestershire

In brief...

Independence from what?

Steve Richards (30 August) is right that Scottish independence is "the ultimate protection" against the Westminster right, but one can take a still wider view – one in which the breakaway is coming not from Scotland, but from the south-east corner of England, where the leaders seem ready to ditch European social democracy and march off into 51st-statehood.

Obviously their aspirations are not shared by Scotland and Wales. But what about the rest of their own nation? Twenty years ago there were a lot of complaints from northern England about Scottish "privileges". I don't hear them much now, and it wouldn't surprise me if feelings in those regions turned from resentment into emulation.

Mike Merchant

Newbury, Berkshire

Blame for rape

Malcolm Howard's letter (28 August) sends the wrong message to men. We should be told that raping a sleeping teenager is not rational, ethical or even legal behaviour. Mind you, I'd like to think that most of us already know this, and wouldn't dream of writing to a national newspaper to blame the victim and inform her of what she "should" have done.

John Dougherty

Stroud, Gloucestershire

No charge

I recently forgot an NHS dental appointment. I phoned afterwards to apologise and offered to pay any charge for failure to turn up. The receptionist told me that she wasn't permitted to accept any payment for non-attendance. I wonder whose bright idea that was.

Patrick Cosgrove

Bucknell, Shropshire

Flawed atheism

Peter Smith claims (letter, 31 August) that the atheist position "could be flawed". Indeed it could: the atheist position is simply that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of gods, so the production of such evidence would utterly demolish atheism. However....

Tom Dale

Carnforth, Lancashire

Liberal weather

It is the wettest summer for 100 years, that is since the Liberals were last in Government. I don't remember Nick Clegg mentioning this further downside to Lib Dem participation in a Coalition Government in May 2010.

Keith Flett

London N17