Når man leser om britenes mangelfulle kontroll av pakistanske studenter er det vanskelig å ta sikkerhetstiltakene alvorlig: det var først i fjor at det var mulig å sjekke studentsøknader mot lister over folk som anses som suspekte.
Man har også visst at man har hatt små muligheter til å avsløre falske dokumenter. Likevel innvilget man i fjor nær 10.000 søknader, til colleger som også for en stor del er en bløff. Når man vet at halvparten av «studentene» går under jorden, kan man undres over hvordan Storbritannia skal løse sikkerhetsproblemene i fremtiden.
Britain’s student visa system has been the weakest link in immigration controls for years, offering a loophole for thousands of immigrants who otherwise would fail to gain entry.
Bogus colleges have enabled migrants from around the world to come to Britain by claiming that they were students on further education courses or learning English. The absence of automatic interviews for every applicant for a visa has allowed «bogus» students to escape proper scrutiny by British officials who issue the travel document overseas.
Ten of the 12 people arrested in the alleged terrorist plot are Pakistanis on student visas — raising fears in Whitehall that terrorist organisations have exploited weaknesses in the visa system. Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said last week when announcing a tougher system for student visas: «Abuse of the student visa has been the biggest abuse of the system, the major loophole in Britain’s border controls.»
Home Office officials have estimated that up 2,000 «bogus» colleges were in existence, many of them allegedly teaching students English. More than 43,120 Pakistani citizens were given student visas between 2004 and 2007, but it was only from this year that applications were checked against an expanded set of watch lists, including police and immigration databases.