Statement – Afghanistan and Pakistan

Posted on June 14th, 2011 in Parliamentary News

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): In his welcome discussions on counter-terrorism with the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, did the Prime Minister discuss Operation Pathway? Did he take the opportunity to visit our entry clearance operation in Islamabad, where Pakistanis seeking to come to this country as students are not routinely interviewed in person—they are interviewed on the telephone? Will he pledge to give whatever resources are needed to boost our entry clearance operation?

The Prime Minister: Yes, indeed. Biometric visas now have to be obtained by students coming into this country and interviews can take place where that is judged necessary. The rate at which applications have been refused has increased very substantially, and, of course, as a result of a review, the number of colleges in Britain that are registered to accept students from abroad has been radically reduced from 4,000 to 1,500. We are doing what we can to prevent people who may be falsely claiming to be students from coming into our country. At the same time, as I said to President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and former Prime Minister Sharif, we welcome Pakistan’s students coming to our country for the purposes of education—more than 10,000 do so. Those links are an important means to build relationships between our two countries in the future, but we must be able to act where there is suspicion of terrorist activity.