David Cameron makes fresh attempt to persuade Indians to come to Britain
The Prime minister wants to welcome students and businessmen who will boost the UK economy.
David Cameron has launched a fresh attempt to persuade Indian students and businessmen to come to Britain, amid fears the Coalition’s immigration policies are putting off foreigners who would boost the UK economy.
Mr Cameron arrived in India promising to end the “myth” that the UK has “closed our borders to Indians” and assuring the country there is “no limit” on how many Indian students can come to Britain.
The Prime Minister also called for “sensible and calm language” over immigration after senior Labour figures suggested the arrival of foreigners in the UK could fuel social unrest.
In an interview with Times of India to mark the start of his visit — his second this year — Mr Cameron denied that the Coalition’s tough line on immigration is putting off tens of thousands of Indians who want to study in the UK.
The number if Indian students in the UK fell to 16,000 last year, down from 61,200 in 2009.
Mr Cameron said that the number has fallen because fewer bogus students are now coming to the country so that they can get jobs.
“I think one of the reasons the numbers have fallen back from some countries is because a lot of people previously were not coming to study – they were coming to work,” Mr Cameron said. “We want students to come and study.”
Downing Street is concerned that the turbulent debate in the UK over immigration is being badly perceived in countries like India.
The debate over issuing £3,000 immigration bonds, a plan which the Government this month dropped, was particularly damaging, sources have conceded.
Asked what he would say to Indians who “sense they’re not welcome any more and will be denied opportunities in the UK”, Mr Cameron said: “My message is very clear. We want to attract the brightest and the best to Britain.
“Whether you’re a student, post-grad, entrepreneur or businessman.If you are a genuine student studying at a genuine intitution, you will get your visa.
“There are no limits on the numbers. And one of the issues we’ll be talking about during my visit is ensuring the recognition of UK Masters degrees here in India.”
Mr Cameron was accused in the interview of “freezing out Indians when Canada, Australia and the US are welcoming them in order to enhance the economic relationship”.
The Prime Minister said that his “challenge is getting that message through and countering the myth that somehow we’ve closed our borders to Indians”.
“That’s simply not the case,” Mr Cameron said. He highlighted a recent Government debate about whether to require foreign visitors to the UK to pay a financial bond before entering the country.
That plan was abandoned after attracting widespread criticism in emerging economies like India.
“Take the recent proposal on financial bonds which I know prompted lots of concern here. Well, let me be clear, we’ve decided not to go ahead with that idea. There won’t be financial bonds.
“Of course we need to find ways to tackle immigration abuse but we want people from India to visit. I believe our people to people ties are at the very heart of the UK-India relationship.”
Despite his message to India, Mr Cameron insisted that he is still “committed” to reducing net migration to the UK tens of thousands.
Mr Cameron also said that he wants to speed up the process for sending back Indian prisoners in UK jails. Indians account for one in every five Asian prisoners being held presently in high security jails across England and Wales.
“When foreigners are sentenced to prison in the UK, I think it’s absolutely right to do everything we can to ensure that they serve their sentence in their own country not at the cost of the British taxpayer.
“That’s why we work with countries across the world to put in place arrangements to ensure this happens.