Data from the Home Office of the United Kingdom on Thursday revealed that 66,796 dependant visas were issued to families of Nigerian students who obtained study visas from March 2022 to March 2023.
This is a 146.1 per cent increase from the 27,137 dependants who migrated to the UK from March 2021 to March 2022.
The data, which was released on Thursday, comes amidst pledges from successive Conservative governments to drastically reduce the numbers of people moving to the UK, particularly in the wake of Brexit – a rupture that was touted by its proponents as a necessary step for Britain to “take control” of its borders.
According to the Home Office, “Africa’s biggest economy had the highest number of dependents of sponsored study visa holders, which rose by 146.1 per cent to 66,796 in the year ending March 2023 from 27,137 in the year ending March 2022.”
It noted that, “Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants, increasing from 22,598 to 42,381. In the year ending March 2023, around 73 percent of visas issued to dependents of students were issued to two nationalities (Indians and Nigerians).”
Foreign tertiary institutions and respective countries have continued to benefit from the migration of Nigerian students to oversea institutions.
For instance, in 2021, Nigerian students and their dependants in the UK contributed an estimated £1.9bn to the economy of the UK according to a report by SBM intelligence.
Thursday’s figures were affected by the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in two new schemes by which Ukrainian refugees could resettle in the UK, the Home Office said in a statement published on its website.
Earlier, the UK announced its intention to ban foreign students from coming to the country with dependants from January 2024.
Under her plans, 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 their studies have been completed.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has kicked against the new policy.
In a statement signed by its Vice-President, External Affairs, Azeez Akinteye, NANS described the new policy as “inhumane”.
“About 30,000 Nigerian students are enrolled in United Kingdom universities and in the 2021/2022 session alone, the government of the UK accrued about £2bn from fees paid by the Nigerian students alone.
“Stopping spouses from travelling together, especially when it has to do with studying abroad, would only cause emotional trauma and the purpose of going to study may even be truncated because there will be no focus as the minds of these students will be divided.’’
The UK has been asked to “create rules that would solidify relationships and build families, not the ones that will break families and set them apart simply because it wants to satisfy an egotistical side of your claim based on an interview.”
The Nigerian students union called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NiDCOM and other stakeholders to engage with the UK government towards the reconsideration of the policy.