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October 2012, Volume 19, Number 4

UK: Migration, Students

Mark Harper replaced Damian Green as UK immigration minister on September 5, 2012. Green in August 2012 criticized the previous Labor government, asserting that it had allowed 3.5 million foreigners to settle in the UK between 1997 and 2010, including many from Poland and other Central European countries.

Green asserted that this influx has adversely affected British residents in housing and health care, and that some employers were able to use migrants as cheap labor. Home Secretary Theresa May in October 2012 echoed this criticism, asserting that the Labor government allowed A8 workers to enter Britain freely to hold down British wages.

The Conservative-Liberal government promised to reduce net migration to the "tens of thousands" by 2015, generally interpreted to mean less than 100,000 a year. If net immigration averages 140,000 a year, the UK population of 62.3 million would rise to 77.2 million by 2062. If net immigration is zero, the 2062 population is projected to be 64.1 million.

Prime Minister David Cameron, after visiting British factories in October 2012 where half or more of the workers were migrants from other EU member countries, announced a review of EU freedom of movement. The opposition Labor Party did not impose restrictions on the so-called A8 nationals from Poland and other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, but did impose restrictions on nationals of Romania and Bulgaria. It is not clear whether Cameron will challenge a core principle of the EU, which is freedom of movement of capital, goods, labor, and services over the borders of member states.

About 40 percent of the 216,000 foreigners who stayed in Britain in 2011 were students. Many non-EU foreigners enter the UK as students, and some work part time or stay to work after completing a year or earning a degree. The fact that many foreign students work has prompted suspicion that some schools are acting more as facilitators of employment than as educational institutions.

Between 2010 and 2012, some 500 language schools lost their right to sponsor overseas students; London Metropolitan University lost its Highly Trusted Sponsor status in September 2012. This means that the 2,600 non-EU students enrolled at LMU must find another school with HTS status or leave the UK by December 2012. The United Kingdom Border Agency said that it suspected LMU admitted non-EU students so they could work part time; checks of 600 LMU students found problems with 60 percent. A judge in September 2012 temporarily allowed LMU to continue to teach non-EU students pending a full court review.