Saturday, 30th September 2023

That ban on Nigerian families migrating to UK

By Editorial Board
07 June 2023   |   3:00 am
The review of immigration policy that allows family members and dependents to accompany international students to the United Kingdom is a wake-up call on the Nigerian authorities to address motivations for the mass exodus syndrome.

Nigerian Students

The review of immigration policy that allows family members and dependents to accompany international students to the United Kingdom is a wake-up call on the Nigerian authorities to address motivations for the mass exodus syndrome.

Rather than begrudge the UK government for the seemingly harsh stance, it is high time the Nigerian government took comprehensive steps to make the country liveable and a land of opportunities for the young ones.

The British government recently announced that, by January 2024, foreign students, including Nigerians, would be banned from bringing family members to the country. This is part of the new plan rolled out by the British government to curb migration in Britain. Under the new policy, only a limited number of those who come from abroad to study in the UK will still be allowed to bring their partners or children to the country from January next year. The crackdown on foreign students bringing dependents to Britain comes ahead of fresh migration figures recently released by the British government.

Clearly, the rather expensive education option in the UK is more than an international exposure for young Nigerians and their brighter future. For well-off Nigerian families, it is an exit window or ‘plan B’ for the entire family – come what fate that may befall a grossly mismanaged Nigeria. And Nigerian families have been moving in droves. With 60,923 dependents, Nigeria has the highest number of dependents of sponsored study visa holders in 2022 in Britain, followed by India with 38,990 dependents.

A cursory examination of visas issued by the United Kingdom in 2022 to Nigerians revealed that there were more visas granted for Nigerian dependents than for Nigerian students. Also, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the UK revealed that 44,195 study visas were issued to Nigerians for the 2021/2022 academic session. The 2023 dependent figure would be higher than that of 2021/2022.

Under the new plan announced by Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, foreign students will be banned from bringing dependents to Britain with them unless they are on postgraduate research programmes. Foreign students will no longer be able to switch out of the student route into work routes for staying in the UK before completing their studies. Additionally, the British government is marshalling out plans to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents, who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education.

It could be argued that the ban or restriction on Nigerian families is high-handed and uncalled for. Nigerian students and their families contribute significantly to the UK economy through tuition fees, accommodation, and other living expenses. A ban or restriction could result in an economic loss for Britain. Specifically, it would lead to a loss of revenue for British universities and have a negative impact on local businesses that cater to the needs of international students and their families.

Nigerian students and their dependents have made enormous contributions to the British economy. In fact, in 2011 alone, Nigerian students and their dependents contributed an estimated £1.93 billion to the UK economy. Nigerian students also play an important role in fostering cultural exchange and diversity within the UK’s educational institutions. A ban or restriction could hinder the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and experiences, potentially limiting the diversity of the student body.

Restricting Nigerian students and families could strain diplomatic relations between the UK and Nigeria. Education is often seen as a bridge between nations, and such a restriction may be viewed as a barrier to bilateral relations and cooperation. Nigeria and the UK have a long history of diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties. Banning or restricting Nigerian families could strain these ties, leading to diplomatic tensions and potentially affecting other areas of cooperation between the two countries.

If the UK were to implement the restriction, Nigerian students and their families may seek alternative destinations for education, such as other countries with comparable educational systems. This could lead to a shift in the preferences and choices of Nigerian students, impacting the UK’s position as a favoured international study destination.

Moreover, if the UK were to ban or restrict Nigerian students from bringing their dependents to the UK, it could prompt other countries to impose similar restrictions on British students. This would not only restrict the mobility of British students but also hinder the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and research collaboration between different countries.

Having said this, it must be noted that Britain has a right to regulate its immigration and education policies based on its specific circumstances, including concerns related to national security, capacity constraints, or other factors. It is at liberty to make immigration policies that it considers beneficial to its citizens. More importantly, the immigration policies of any country, including Britain, can change over time based on evolving circumstances and priorities. Changes in immigration policies may affect individuals or communities who have established connections or aspirations related to the country in question, and this can cause hardship.

Therefore, Nigerians shouldn’t begrudge Britain for the restrictions or dictate how it should formulate its immigration policies. Instead, the restrictions should serve as another wake-up call for Nigerian leaders to fix Nigeria and make it a liveable place for its citizens. If Nigeria were a liveable country, Nigerian students would not be fleeing with their family to Britain. To discourage Nigerian students from leaving the country to study abroad or seek opportunities abroad, Nigerian leaders can focus on addressing the underlying factors that drive emigration.

First, the Tinubu government should improve the Nigerian economy by creating job opportunities, reducing poverty, and improving the overall standard of living. The government can implement policies that promote economic growth, attract foreign investment, and support entrepreneurship. The government should implement policies that support small and medium-scale enterprises, streamline business regulations for a friendly environment, and provide financial support and mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs to incentivise young Nigerians to stay in Nigeria and contribute to the country’s economy.

Good governance, political stability, and respect for the rule of law are critical factors that can instil confidence in young Nigerians to remain in Nigeria. Therefore, the Tinubu-led government can work towards establishing strong institutions, promoting political inclusiveness, and creating an environment that encourages citizens’ participation and trust in the government.

It is important to note that studying abroad can offer unique opportunities for personal growth, cultural exchange, and access to specific academic programmes. Therefore, instead of merely discouraging Nigerian students from studying in Britain or any other country, it might be more constructive to focus on improving the educational landscape within Nigeria and offering appealing alternatives to Nigerian students. The government should strengthen our educational system, expand vocational training programmes, and promote technical skills to equip young Nigerians with the knowledge and capabilities needed for a competitive job market anywhere in the world.

This is the time to enhance the quality and reputation of Nigerian universities and institutions of higher learning by investing in infrastructure, research facilities, faculty development, and curriculum updates in our universities and institutions of higher learning. The government should provide scholarships and financial aid programmes, specifically targeted at Nigerian students. This can help to alleviate the financial burden and encourage Nigerian students to pursue higher education within Nigeria.

More importantly, Nigerian students and their families are fleeing Nigeria owing to the increasing insecurity of lives and property in the country. They feel that staying in Nigeria is tantamount to endangering their lives. Therefore, the Tinubu-led administration should seriously address security challenges in the country to promote a sense of safety and stability within the nation. It should prioritise security reforms, invest in law enforcement agencies, and implement measures to tackle insurgency, terrorism, and other forms of criminal activities.

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