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uk overstay visas: Only a tiny proportion of Indians overstay visas in the UK: Lord Bilimoria

British-Indian businessman Karan Bilimoria has expressed his disagreement with UK home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments that Indians are the “largest group of people who overstay” their visas in the UK.

“I am surprised because the last time such remarks were made in 2016 by Theresa May, they damaged the relationship [between India and UK] and set our relationship back many years, which we’ve been trying to rebuild,” Lord Bilimoria, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, said in a phone conversation with Economic Times Online.

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“In the last six years, we’ve made a lot of progress. So, such remarks are not helpful at all in any circumstance, let alone when we’re coming close to negotiating a free trade agreement in good faith,” Bilimoria added. “The free trade agreement is a milestone … talking about mobility in terms of overstaying Indians is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Because they are a very tiny proportion [compared to] the people who overstay from other countries.”

Drawing attention to the large number of highly skilled Indians working in the UK and contributing to its economy, Bilimoria, who is the founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, said, “The NHS [UK’s National Health Service] would collapse without Indian doctors. The Indian community is 1.5 million strong. It’s the largest ethnic minority community in the UK and, by far, the most successful.”

Bilimoria, the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students, said it had achieved the target for having 600,000 international students in UK in spite of the pandemic, and was now aiming for 1 million international students in the UK by 2030. “India will soon be the [country sending] the largest number of international students, overtaking China. That’s my objective.”

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Quoting UK Home office data, The Guardian had reported that 4.4% of Indians overstayed their visa.The High Commission of India in the United Kingdom released a statement saying the Indian government is committed to working with the UK on facilitating the return of Indian citizens who have overstayed.“As per the data shared with the [UK] Home Office, as of date, action has been initiated on all of the cases referred to the High Commission. Further, the UK has also undertaken to fulfil certain commitments as part of the Migration and Mobility Protocol, on which we await demonstrable progress.”

Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow for south Asia at London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told ET Online that the Indian High Commission’s “valiant response” pointed to the need for “demonstrable progress” on the UK’s commitment towards the Migration and Mobility Protocol. “But, the real concern for both sides lies in the political fallout of the home secretary’s statement,” he added.

ET Online