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'Terror plotters' allowed to stay despite visa breaches

LONDON: One man was stopped by immigration officials at Manchester Airport last week as he arrived from Pakistan, but was allowed to enter the country despite his visa documents being “all over the place”, according to one source, said a report in the Telegraph Saturday. Another suspect was threatened with deportation after immigration officials discovered...

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 11, 2009 | Last Updated: 12 years ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Apr 11, 2009 | Last Updated: 12 years ago
'Terror plotters' allowed to stay despite visa breaches

LONDON: One man was stopped by immigration officials at Manchester Airport last week as he arrived from Pakistan, but was allowed to enter the country despite his visa documents being “all over the place”, according to one source, said a report in the Telegraph Saturday.

Another suspect was threatened with deportation after immigration officials discovered he was working as a security guard instead of studying, but he was nonetheless allowed to stay.

The revelations will intensify pressure on the Government to carry out a complete overhaul of the student visa system after it emerged that all but one of the 12 suspects being held on suspicion of plotting an “Easter spectacular” bombing campaign had come to the UK from Pakistan on student visas approved by the Home Office.

Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the parliamentary counter-terrorism subcommittee, described the UK Border Agency's failure to act as “a disgrace” and a “frightening” lapse of immigration controls.

There were also calls yesterday for greater co-operation between the UK and Pakistan in vetting applicants for student visas, with Pakistan's high commissioner suggesting vetting procedures were currently inadequate.

Anti-terrorist police are continuing to search 10 premises in Manchester, Liverpool and Clitheroe, Lancs., following Wednesday's arrests of a suspected terror cell which police believe may have been planning suicide bomb attacks on three shopping centres in Manchester over the Easter weekend.

A security source has told The Daily Telegraph that one of the men was stopped after he flew into Manchester Airport from Pakistan only last week, when immigration officials discovered he did not have the correct documents to enter the country.

“It was a shambles,” the source said. “This man's documents were all over the place when he landed. He was allowed to proceed on the basis that he had to come back for an appointment with immigration at a later date and show them correct documents. He was effectively left free to do whatever he wanted.”

Another suspect, Johnus Khan, was allegedly working virtually full-time as a security guard on building sites until three months ago, when he was challenged by immigration officials.

His former employer, Haroon Khan, said: “As a student, you're only allowed to work for a certain number of hours if you are on a student visa. He worked above his allowed amount. When immigration got involved, some of his friends were deported.

“He was working four or five days a week and we had to cut down to two.”

He said Mr Khan was enrolled at Liverpool John Moores University.

“I don't know what he studied,” his employer added. “As far as I knew he was never at university, just always working.”

Mr Mercer said of the latest revelations: “This is symptomatic of the fact that there are wholesale breaches of immigration regulations and yet nothing ever seems to be done about it.

“This is especially worrying when you consider that it seems to be the case with terrorism issues time after time. Alleged terrorists have already been in the hands of our security authorities but nothing has been done.”

Almost 400,000 student visas are granted every year, with around 10,000 being issued in Pakistan alone. Foreign students bring with them a £10 billion boost to the economy which the Government is keen to encourage.

But the deluge of applicants has led to concerns that proper background checks are not being carried out.

Foreign students are such big business that many British universities have set up representative offices abroad to encourage more students to apply for entry.

The Daily Telegraph has discovered that two of the suspects arrested on Wednesday obtained their visas after applying to Liverpool John Moores University through one such representative office in Peshawar.

A well-placed source said Abdul Wahab Khan had applied for his place in 2006 and that the university's visa advice service had helped him and one of the other suspects. Khan's visa was issued the same year.

The other suspect advised by Liverpool John Moore University's Peshawar office is believed to be from Landi Kotal, a district in the Khyber Agency close to the Afghan border.

A British immigration lawyer in Pakistan, Shahid Aslam, said UK universities were desperate for fee-paying Pakistani students and that consultants who provide successful applicants are paid up to 25 per cent of first year tuition fees, which can amount to more than £2,500 per student.

“It's a lucrative business,” he said.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch UK, said: “Student visas have long been a gaping hole in our border controls which the Government has chosen to ignore, partly because of the fees that foreign students pay.”

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