Report reveals data gaps in overstaying foreigners in UK

Amid soaring migration numbers in the UK, some individuals are smothered by living in the shadow as they opt to overstay their visas. This unravels a system lacking comprehensive public data.

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With net migration to the UK reaching record levels, concerns arise over the lives of those who overstay their visas and go underground, prompting a spotlight on a crisis that the U.K. government has no public data on.

In a recent investigative report by Sky News, Dhanabal, a 26-year-old from India, shared his story of arriving on a student visa with dreams of a better life but ending up surviving on cash-in-hand jobs, offering a rare insight into the extent of the issue.

The report reveals that the U.K. government might be lacking comprehensive data on visa overstayers, leaving the scale of the problem unknown.

Vasuki Murahathas, an immigration solicitor, described the system as “collapsed,” with a 50-percent increase in calls from desperate overstayers seeking advice. This has led many to endure poverty and vulnerability to exploitation, trapped in low-paid cash-in-hand work.

The Home Office has admitted its inability to provide exact numbers for visa overstayers over the past three years. In 2020, approximately 83,600 individuals had their visas expired with no record of departure, further contributing to the uncertainty surrounding the issue. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of immigration policies and their impact on the economy and society.

Beyond its impact on individuals, the crisis also affects U.K. universities that heavily rely on tuition fees from foreign students. Universities are under pressure to meet government targets for student enrollment and completion rates while ensuring that genuine applicants are identified amidst potential visa abusers. 

Jamie Arrowsmith, director of Universities UK International, assured that efforts are being made to ensure that students coming to the UK genuinely intend to study.

As the UK grapples with the challenge of visa overstayers, there is a growing call for immigration experts and policymakers to collaborate on finding solutions that protect vulnerable individuals while upholding the integrity of the immigration system. Striking the right balance is crucial to maintain the UK’s reputation as an educational destination while addressing issues of abuse and exploitation.

The lack of public data on visa overstayers can have significant implications for international students, leading to heightened scrutiny and uncertainty. Universities, reliant on foreign students for tuition fees, may face the task of identifying legitimate applicants amidst potential visa abuse. The crisis also exacerbates vulnerabilities for students who struggle to find sponsors for jobs, leaving them in poverty and susceptible to exploitation.

As the UK aims to address the issue, finding a balance that fosters a welcoming environment for legitimate international students while tackling the overstayer crisis and supporting individuals in disadvantaged positions will be crucial.

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