Cynthia Barker writes...Wow, as many as 48,000 immigrants have allegedly obtained bogus English language certificates even though they could not speak English, the Home Office said.
Home Office Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told Parliament that an inquiry into abuse of the student visa system had found evidence of criminal activity, which would now be investigated fully.
Incredibly, out of 48,000 certificates, 29,000 were invalid and 19,000 were "questionable", the minister said.
Mr Brokenshire continued: "It is likely that the true totals will be higher."
"The government is not prepared to tolerate this abuse," he said.
"Since the start of February immigration enforcement officers, with the support of the National Crime Agency, together with officials from UK Visas and Immigration, have been conducting a detailed and wide-ranging investigation into actions by organised criminals to falsify English language tests for student visa applicants.
"They've also investigated a number of colleges and universities for their failure to ensure that their students meet the criteria set out in immigration rules."
The Home Office investigation was prompted by a BBC Panorama investigation earlier this year, which shows secretly filmed evidence of bogus colleges issuing fraudulent English certificates used to falsely obtain further leave to remain in the UK.
UK Border officers have also uncovered evidence of "serious concern" at some university campuses, and the Home Office has downgraded Glyndwr University in north-east Wales from its status as a "highly-trusted sponsor" of Tier 4 student visas.
The Home Office has also suspended Tier 4 Sponsors licences of 57 private further education colleges, Mr Brokenshire said.
In a rare move, two universities - the University of Bedfordshire and University of West London - are no longer allowed to sponsor new students pending further investigations.
The suspensions of student visa licences for state owned universities will be highly embarrassing for the UK government.
Immigration border enforcement officers had started work to identify migrants who were in the country illegally as a result of the falsified language tests so they could be removed or deported from the UK, the minister promised.
"The steps I have outlined today shows we will not hesitate to take firm action against those - students, colleges and universities - who do not abide by their legal responsibilities and resolutely pursue organised criminality to bring those responsible to justice," the minister concluded. Source: BBC.
The news of a few crooked colleges trying to buck the system will almost certainly result in yet another crackdown on foreign students and private colleges - worth billions to the UK economy. Let's hope that the Home Office will not allow a few rotten eggs to cause the government to throw the baby out with the bath water.
In a separate story, illegal immigrants recently had over £2000 confiscated by Home Office border officers during an immigration raid in Leicester.
The overstaying Indian nationals were deported, but their money - deemed to have been earned through illegal working – was kept by the government under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Interestingly, the courts upheld the decision. With the new Immigration Act making it harder, if not impossible, for a visa overstaying illegal immigrant to open a bank account, there could be a lot more cash seized by the Home Office during deportation raids.
If you need advice on any immigration matter, including overstaying your visa, EU or UK immigration law, or want to appeal against a refusal, call Cynthia Barker on 07850 307687 or 0208 731 5972 or email her your details to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cynthia Barker is a qualified OISC Registered Immigration Adviser, with 15 years experience in immigration matters, with a team of Level 3 Immigration Law Practitioners, Concept Care Solutions, Middlesex House, 29-45 High Street, Edgware, HA8 7UU.