The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, on Wednesday, explained why the UK government banned international students from bringing family members with them starting in 2024.
Specifically, by January 2024, Nigerians and other foreign nationals on study visa to the United Kingdom will no longer be able to bring in their family members, a new policy rolled out by the British Government to curb migration.
According to Montgomery, the decision is to avoid pressure on the country’s housing infrastructure and to control the inflow of migrants.
“Many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them…but it’s not always possible to find the housing and services to meet all the needs of our existing student population…we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK,” Montgomery revealed shortly after he emerged from a closed-door meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting comes after the new British diplomat to Nigeria submitted his letter of Credence to former President Muhammadu Buhari on May 18.
Recall that the UK Home Office had announced that International students, including Nigerians, would be stopped from switching from the student visa route to a work visa until their studies had been completed.
The decision has, however, been greeted with mixed reactions from international students, schools, and some British lawmakers, who argued that the regulation would aggravate labour shortages in critical sectors such as healthcare and threaten the country’s global standing as a top destination for international talent.
But fielding a question from State House Correspondents, the British High Commissioner explained the regulation, saying, “I think there are two issues here. The first is, it’s not always possible to find the housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population.
“And second, reasonable people would accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK just as the Nigerian government would do,” he added.
Montgomery disclosed that the number of Nigerian students in the UK had increased fivefold in the last three years, even as they make up 10 per cent of those granted UK visas annually.
“That issue was not raised in the meeting (with the Vice President) just now. But I would like to put the media debate about it in a broader context. Last year (2022), for example, the UK granted three million new visas, of which 325,000 were to Nigerians.
“Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of the people coming to London and the UK.
“It’s a fantastic success story for our universities. And we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK,” he said.
The British High Commissioner revealed that his discussions with Shettima highlighted the current policy direction of the Bola Tinubu administration, which, he said, is being warmly received by UK investors.
“As I discussed with His Excellency, the big economic decisions being taken by this government are really important and are being noticed around the world: the removal of subsidy, the exchange rate reform, all of that create a much better investment environment.
“I was in London last week; I was briefing my ministers, but I was also talking to british business in finance, banking and investment sectors. They are all responding very positively to these first decisions,” Montgomery stated.
He further said their discussions also featured areas of assistance by the British government to cushion the effects of the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy, which has spelt “tough times,” for Nigerians.
“We know that there are tough times going on at the moment, inflation and unemployment.
“The vice president and I also touched on some of the measures that might be possible to cushion the blow of some of these economic pressures.
“But I think the big issue is that these reforms help put Nigeria on a higher growth path; they will attract more investments and the United Kingdom and the city of London see Nigeria as a big opportunity going forward. I will be doing my part to try to boost those, enhance trade and investment,” he said.