Amid indications that foreign students may be removed from UK's net immigration figures in a change of policy, a campaign group espousing the case of Indian and other non-EU professionals today said that migrants needed Britain as much as Britain needed them.
After education and industry leaders petitioned Prime Minister David Cameron with figures that international students brought 8 billion pounds annually to the British economy, 10 Downing Street has indicated that 'The prime minister understands these arguments and is definitely considering a change of policy.'
The HSMP Forum, which won a legal challenge to new immigration rules for non-EU professionals in 2006, said that the government policy change on student visas and exempting them from net migration numbers 'only shows the Conservative-led government's shoddy way of handling immigration in the country'.
Amit Kapadia, executive director of the forum, said: "Migrants need Britain as much as Britain needs them.
"If the government keeps sending wrong messages to prospective international students and skilled migrants then it is going to harm the British economy in the long run."
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "Britain is open for business to the brightest and the best migrant".
However, Kapadia added: "It is quite obvious that they are trying to keep up a brave face despite making a grave error of underestimating the value of foreign students to Britain's economy.
"Similarly, they should have the foresight to consider all issues pertaining to immigration instead of just concerning themselves to reducing the number of non-EU people entering the country".
In a press release, the HSMP Forum said that it had always maintained that students were valuable assets to Britain's economy just like other immigrants.
It said that the Conservative Party had pledged to cut the net migration to below 100,000 by the next general election in 2015 and allegedly planned to show a drop in immigration numbers simply by leaving out students while announcing strict interview rules for those applying to study in the UK.
"While it is obvious that students form the largest chunk of the migration figures, it reveals the government's desperate attempts to achieve their ambitious and impractical targets," it said.
Image: Tourists photograph the Queen Victoria Monument outside Buckingham Palace. | Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters