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UK links India’s refusal to sign MoU on illegal migrants to strict student visa norms

The UK government has directly linked the exclusion of Indian students from a list of countries offered easier visa norms to Indias refusal to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the return of illegal migrants. Britains Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, said the reason India had been excluded from a newly-expanded list of countries from where overseas students can benefit from a more streamlined UK university application process was because the issue of Indian There is always a demand for easier norms, but we cannot look at that without addressing the issue of overstayers, On being asked if Indias refusal to sign the MoU relating to illegal migrants had resulted in Indias exclusion from an expanded list of countries covering the likes of China, the Maldives, Mexico and Bahrain, the minister said it was important to ensure that all issues are looked at on balance. The Indian Cabinet had approved the so-called MoU on returns to facilitate the deportation of alleged illegal Indian immigrants in the UK to India and vice-versa days before Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to Britain to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in mid-April. The agreement was touted as the centrepiece of the nearly 25 MoUs to be signed between the two countries during the Indian PMs UK visit. However, India reportedly backed out of signing the pact at the last-minute due to reservations expressed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) about Indian agencies being given only 15 days to verify the background of an undocumented migrant. The issue has since been caught up in political wrangles, with the Indian government insisting the timelines being offered for the verification of the alleged visa overstayers from India are not feasible to determine whether they are from India or elsewhere in the sub-continent. Senior Indian officials have admitted that the issue has strained the bilateral relationship, which has now resulted in India being excluded from Tier 4 overseas student visa relaxations unveiled by the UK Home Office last week. The move triggered outrage among Indian student groups in Britain and other leading figures within the bilateral space, including some branding it an Addressing the UK-India Week launch, Indian High Commissioner here Y K Sinha, said it was important that International students are the best soft power tool that the UK has, Each country has its own requirements and is free to decide its own immigration policies, but we need to look at the larger picture, But we do need them back home too; so once they acquire the expertise within the NHS [National Health Service], please send them back, Indian-origin House of Lords peer and investment banker Jitesh Gadhia welcomed the UK governments Tier 2 visa relaxation for doctors and other professionals from countries like India. There is sincere hope in India that Britain will become more flexible and receptive to its suggestions once it is outside the European Union (EU), The week-long set of events, organised by UK-based media house India Inc, are aimed at bringing together senior figures in the UK with their counterparts from India in an attempt to enhance the bilateral relationship.

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