Nigerian migrants face tougher rules on how many relatives they can bring to the UK under Suella Braverman’s plans to cut net migration.
Government sources said the home secretary was considering tightening the rules on dependants after Home Office immigration figures showed a “surprising inconsistency” across different nationalities coming to the UK to work and study.
Nigerian citizens accounted for 40 per cent of all dependants who accompanied foreign students in the 12 months to June. This was despite Nigerian students making up only 7 per cent of all foreign students over the period. On average, Nigerians bring in almost one dependant each, compared with an overall ratio for foreign students of one in six.
In the year to June, 34,031 Nigerians were given study visas in the UK. They brought a total of 31,898 dependants with them, according to Home Office figures. A similar ratio was recorded for work visas, with the 8,972 Nigerians issued with a work visa in the 12 months bringing with them 8,576 dependants.
In contrast there were 114,837 Chinese students who came to the UK last year, bringing with them a total of 401 dependants.
Indians had a higher ratio, with 93,049 students coming with 24,916 dependants. However, Indians who came to the UK on work visas brought in an average of one dependant per person.
Braverman and Nadhim Zahawi, the Cabinet Office minister, are considering imposing a cap on the number of children that foreign students can bring, to cut unskilled migration.
Dependants can work without the same level of criteria that other migrants must meet. Government sources said Braverman sees the crackdown as a way of cutting net migration without harming growth.
A third of work-related visas issued in the 12 months to June were for dependants of the main applicant — a total of 109,649. The ratio for studyrelated visas was lower, with 81,089 dependants out of a total of 486,868.
Braverman’s attempts to reduce the number of foreign students seems to be at odds with public opinion and even Conservative voters. A survey carried out by Ipsos Mori as part of a regular immigration tracker for British Future, a think tank, has found that only 29 per cent of Tory voters support a reduction in student immigration.
Among the overall public, 20 per cent of voters would reduce international student numbers, whereas 42 per cent would prefer the numbers to stay the same. Twenty-five per cent would like foreign student numbers to increase.
Support for reducing immigration overall remains at its lowest since the tracker survey began in 2015. Although 40 per cent would like it reduced, 26 per cent said it should remain the same and 24 per cent that it should increase.
The polling also found that the public remains divided over the government’s policy to send migrants to Rwanda, with 21 per cent strongly opposed and 21 per cent strongly supportive. Overall, 40 per cent said they supported the scheme and 33 per cent were opposed.
Ministry of Defence figures published yesterday showed that 1,065 migrants crossed in 25 boats on Sunday, taking October’s tally to 1,693 and this year’s total to more than 34,000.