| GEO World|
| Repay fees to Pakistani students: Lord Ahmed|
| Updated at: 0222 PST, Tuesday, November 10, 2009|
LONDON: The Government has been urged to repay fees to students from Pakistan who have missed taking up university places in the UK because of visa delays.
Labour peer Lord Ahmed’s call followed a promise from Home Secretary Alan Johnson in October that waiting times for visas for Pakistanis, which are now issued from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, would be cut from two months to 15 days.
Lord Ahmed demanded at question time: “How many Pakistani students have missed their university deadlines and have lost their fees and scholarships due to the backlogs and delays in Abu Dhabi?
”How many people are waiting for visa endorsements in Islamabad after winning their appeals in British courts in the last six months?
”Will the Government refund fees for all the victims of our failure who have either missed their deadlines or medical check-ups, university courses, family weddings and professional jobs?”
Home Office minister Lord West of Spithead said he did not know the exact number of students who had missed their deadlines. He said there had been “delays in the visa operation in Pakistan particularly in issuing visas resulting from successful appeal decisions” and “some applicants have been inconvenienced as a result”.
He said: “The United Kingdom has a close and important relationship with Pakistan and during the Home Secretary’s recent visit to Pakistan he assured the government that the visa operation is a priority and committed to reducing processing times to meet published service standards by November.”
And he added: “There are 10,000 students (from Pakistan) currently studying in the UK and in the first nine months of this year just under 8,000 student visas were issued.
”In relation to those appeals, the team working in Abu Dhabi, which is fully set up now, cleared over 4,000 cases in five weeks in September and October and we will continue at that pace, so we are rapidly getting up to speed on this.”