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Labour Immigration Plan To Call For End To Student Visa Loopholes

07/03/2013 07:27 GMT | Updated 06/05/2013 10:12 BST

Labour is to call for an end to loopholes in student visas, arguing their abuse means international students are being blocked from studying in the United Kingdom.

As the party continues to reposition itself on immigration, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper will say in a major speech that short term visas given to students are being increasingly abused.

yvette cooper

Yvette Cooper is to admit Labour got it wrong on immigration, echoing Miliband

It comes after party leader Ed Miliband admitted in a party political broadcast that Labour had got it wrong on immigration when they were in power.

Cooper will continue the mea culpa, conceding the party should have been "ready to talk about problems" but it now knows "that needs to change".

She will also acknowledge that the impact of immigration must be properly managed so it is "fair for all".

But Ms Cooper will insist the repositioning does not represent a shift to the right as she argues there must be an effort to distinguish between "immigration that works and immigration that doesn't".

"As Ed Miliband has said, we know Labour got some things wrong on immigration in government," Ms Cooper will say in the central London speech.

"We will support the government where it introduces sensible policies and we will point out where they are getting things wrong.

"But we won't enter an arms race of rhetoric on immigration - and we hope the Prime Minister won't either.

"That's not honest, or good for Britain.

"It is because immigration needs public support that the impact must be properly managed so it is fair for all," she will add.

"And yes, we need a serious debate about how to get that right."

Ms Cooper will claim Tory promises to reduce net migration to tens of thousands by the election is "not what it seems".

The Shadow Home Secretary will say that a reduction in net migration of 72,000 is made up of a 27,000 increase in

emigration alongside a 20,000 drop in the number of Brits returning to the UK while student immigration has dropped by 38,000 - at a cost of £8bn in investment a year.

"Legitimate university students are included in the target even though they bring billions into Britain - and those are being squeezed.

"Yet student visitor visas aren't included - and growing abuse in that category is being ignored.

"Stronger checks are needed on shorter-term student visitor visas."

She will also insist:"Few think the answer to Britain's immigration challenges is to persuade more Brits to go away.

"Net migration measures the difference between certain categories of immigration and emigration and the way they have set the target means they are at risk of focusing on the wrong things.

"Everything that is included in the net migration measure is treated as the same while the Government tries to bring it down.

"Everything excluded from the net migration measure is being ignored - even if it causes serious problems.

Ms Cooper will say the number of such visas has gone up by 30,000 a year since the election even though applicants do not have to meet any academic requirements to be eligible and no checks are made on whether they study or overstay."

"The Borders Inspector has already warned this route is open to abuse for those who are coming not to study but for low-skilled work instead," she will add.

"Yet because 'student visitors' aren't included in the 'net migration' target, the Home Office doesn't appear to care.

"We also need much stronger action to cut illegal immigration as a priority," she will add.

She will call for "faster, stronger enforcement" when illegal immigrants are found, unannounced border agency inspections, carried out by officers with arrest powers, for employers and colleges and exit checks at borders.

More prosecutions and higher fines for paying less than the minimum wage, as well measures to tackle "gangmasters" employing illegal migrants in the social care, hospitality and construction industries are needed, she will add, as well as a ban on housing workers in over-crowded accommodation.

Ms Cooper will point to a halving of the number of people refused entry, backlogs in finding failed asylum seekers, a drop in deportations of illegal immigrants and reduced numbers of foreign prisoners being removed, as proof the government is failing to tackle the problem.

"The system isn't working at the moment and it has got significantly worse since the election," she will say.

Separately, Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to meet her German opposite number Hans-Peter Friedrich to discuss "welfare tourism" ahead of the lifting of restrictions at the end of this year on the right of Bulgarians and Romanians to live in other EU countries.

Mr Friedrich said more EU regulation was needed to prevent migrants settling in countries like Germany and the UK to claim benefits which are more generous than in their home countries.

The German interior minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The right of free movement gives all people in Europe the opportunity to come to another country for work, for education, but it's not allowed to come only to Germany or to Great Britain to get social security.

"That's the reason why we want to send people back and this is what we have to regulate in our European law.

"There is no problem when people are coming to Germany for work. That's what we want. But we don't want to have people coming only to get social security."