THE intention of the United Kingdom government placing a ban on Nigerian and other foreign non-research students from bringing dependants to the UK is generating ripples, especially among young Nigerians, who have seen travelling out of the country, a move tagged ‘Japa’, as the best way to escape the dwindling economy and socio-political uncertainties in Nigeria. The UK government is also proposing to shut her doors on international students from switching from a student visa route to a work visa until their studies are completed, and would review the required funds international students must have while coming to the UK.
ACCORDING to the UK’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the restrictions will take place from January 2024, attributing the new policy to the government’s worry over rising migration that has largely been driven by people coming to the UK from outside the European Union.
THE UK government said refugees, African and Asian migrants are resettling in the country. Data on the UK government’s website show that 59,053 Nigerians were issued student visas in 2022, making Nigeria the third country with the highest number of student visas in the UK behind India and China. However, Nigerian students took the highest number of dependants, 60,932, to the UK in the same year. There are also predictions that immigration volume in the UK may soar in 2023. Braverman, who had earlier suggested that more British people should be trained to do jobs commonly done by overseas workers, such as lorry driving and fruit picking, said the government needed to reduce the number of immigrants taking key sectors of its economy.
WHILE the UK has the authority to change its immigration policies, as it has been doing over the years, the nation has failed to acknowledge the immense contributions of international students and other immigrants coming into the country. The UK has become a major destination for international students in the last few years due to friendly study applications and immigration policies. According to a UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Nigeria is the third highest country with students studying in the UK after China and India; the first in Africa, with nearly 100,000 Nigerian students in UK schools in the past five years. Data from SBM Intelligence revealed that Nigerian students and their dependents contributed about £1.9 billion to the economy of the UK in 2021 alone, of which £680.6 million was spent on school fees.
THE new visa policy is tantamount to the popular Nigerian saying, “Use and dump”. Foreign immigrants in the UK take up menial, caregiving, construction, and other developmental jobs to sustain its economy. The immigrants have not only filled the void created by the shrinking labour force, skill gap and ageing population in the UK, but have also contributed more than they take from the UK economy.
PLACING a ban on those contributing hugely to a nation’s economy is counterproductive. UK universities, under the aegis of the Universities UK International and a member of the parliament, Carol Monaghan, have kicked against the new immigration policy. Monoghan revealed that international students and their dependants contributed £40 billion to the UK economy last year and have demonstrated useful skills across key sectors. She said the UK Prime Minister has failed to recognise that the new policy will further exacerbate labour shortages in healthcare and IT as international students will choose other countries with friendly policies over the UK, worsening the financial difficulties faced by UK universities.
AS the Yorubas will say, ka p’anu po le eleyoro lo, ki ato wa fi abo ba adiye; let’s chase intruders away before we focus on our errors. The uproar from Nigerians against the UK ban would not be unnecessary had our leaders been responsive and responsible over the decades. There was a time Nigeria was a travelling destination for Ghanaians, Togolese, Beninese and other nationalities. Europeans and Americans were in droves for education, tourism, exhibition, and business. However, with widespread insecurity, economic summersault, depreciation of the naira and untamed corruption, the country has become a ‘no-go area’ for foreign nationals.
ONE would have wondered why Nigerians would go to civil war-ridden Sudan, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Comoros to study and work as labourers. Naira has depreciated as low as N760 against $1 in the black market, while CFA and Cedi, which were once shadows against the Nigerian naira, are now more valuable than our currency.
HAVING an economically viable country with bolstered production capacity to cater for the needs of her people and more, rejuvenating the health, education, power, agriculture and other critical sectors to meet global standards and taming our greed will not only curb Nigerians’ hunger for emigration but also attract foreign investors and tourists to the most populous black nation.
WE suggest that if Nigerians must travel with their dependents, there are several other countries, such as Canada, Germany, Australia, Finland, and others, with attractive packages for international students. Fighting the UK over her immigration policies is like acting as ‘meddlesome interlopers’. We should rather channel such energy into improving our own country, as countries can change their immigration policies as they wish. We just need to make our country work to avoid being at the mercy of others. ‘No place like home’, it is popularly said.