As the number of immigrants in the United Kingdom increase, some incidents have spotlighted the existence of anti-immigrant sentiments in some quarters. One of such was the comment of the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman who expressed discomfort with what she considered a high number of international students choosing British universities and some of them coming in with their dependants. She also complained about the international students not being economically productive and hinted at a willingness to reconsider the UK Policy on student and work visas to stifle the inflow of international students.
For context, the UK gave 8,384 Nigerians sponsored student visas in 2019 and in the year ended June 2022, the total number of new international students entering the UK was 486,868 with the number of Nigerian students being 66,929 – 14% of the inflow. However, this is still below the annual target of 600,000 international students set.
As regards productivity, a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute showed that international students are worth £29 billion to the UK economy while analysis from London Economics on the economic impact of the international students that the UK took in for the 2018/19 session showed that the UK gained a net figure of £25.9 billion for the year in question with new Nigerian students alone arguably responsible for a net economic gain of £3,250,000,000.
The UK gains from school fees paid by Nigerian immigrants to British schools, visa fees, NHS payments, rent, economic productivity, income taxes (where the students work), etc. Also, speaking about the issue of dependants coming with international students, only postgraduate students who are expected to be older and likely to have spouses and children have such privilege and those students are well-vetted for proof of financial competence.
While there are evident costs of assimilating legal immigrants into host communities such as the issue of housing demand, the challenges are not insurmountable. Essentially, Braverman’s comments come from a desire for racial or cultural homogeneity while her position can be seen as that of a UK government official expressing displeasure at successful UK government policy.
As the UK deals with the loss of its Monarch and sees former colonies such as India become economically stronger than it in several ways, it has to come to terms with a diminishing global profile and possibly, embracing immigrants could help it regain its global status.
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