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Visa power: African, Arab ‘students’ coast to crime
July 29, 2012
PANJIM: Several young foreigners arriving in Goa mainly from southern African and Arab countries are abusing the student visa system. Police records show they are apparently doing anything and everything, but studying in the state.
Crime records from the state’s coastal police stations, where most of them prefer
to stay, confirm that many of these ‘students’ have been booked for offences ranging from overstaying and travelling on fake visas to even drug peddling. While there are, of course, many genuine foreign students from these parts in Goa, the number of those suspected to be involved in illegal activities is rising exponentially. State police claims to have begun a crackdown on these fake students but without too much apparent success so far.
Some of them have made Goa their second home and they stay on for years together under the garb of studies, a senior police officer admitted to the Herald, adding that the misuse of student visas is fast becoming the biggest hole in the border-control and immigration system.
Goa University officials said that utmost care is taken to ensure that rogue elements don’t misuse the student visas. The university follows all procedures before approving admission for foreign students to affiliated colleges and the university itself, an official said. But some self-financed colleges, investigations revealed, neither have such a system of exhaustive checks in place nor are they hauled up for violating norms.
“We consider only those students (for admission) routed through the Indian Council for Cultural Education. Also, the educational institute at which the prospective student has studied in his/her home country must be recognized by the Association of Indian Universities, which keeps a close watch on educational institutes across the world, before we consider him/her for admission,” Goa University Registrar Vijayendra Kamat told Herald.
Miramar-based Dhempe College of Arts & Science has about 40 foreign students on its rolls, all from Afghanistan. Vice-Principal Prof. Edwin Cortez said the college “strictly follows all guidelines before granting admission to foreign students”. Among the mandatory documents the college insists on are an eligibility certificate from Goa University and a monthly “bonafide certificate” from the police. In the last academic year, the college had 32 students from Arab countries and another eight students came through the International Council for Cultural Exchange.
“We strictly follow the 15 per cent admission criteria for foreign students laid down by the government of India,” Cortez said, adding that in each stream the number of foreign students does not exceed the prescribed quota.
The flip side of this issue, however, is that there are reports of genuine students from these countries being denied admission and the prospect of racial profiling coming into play. One city college, it is learnt, has stopped giving admission to students from certain southern African countries because, an official claimed, “they (along with non-student nationals of these countries) are often under the police scanner”. “This is not racial discrimination. It is a conscious decision to keep the college away from controversy,” he added. He claimed that whenever there was an allegation of illegality against students from these countries, which he seemed to suggest without saying as such was more than the average, the students were paraded by police. “It sets an unhealthy example for fellow students. Frequent police interactions were harming our college’s reputation so we began rejecting applications and now students from these countries themselves have stopped applying here,” the college official said.
In just the first six months of 2012, North Goa police stations have registered 30-odd cases of overstaying, forged visas, and drugs predominantly involving citizens from southern African and Arab countries and including those on student visas.
Taking the cue, colleges have begun taking extra precautions to preserve their reputations. Salgaoncar College of Law at Miramar is said to be “thoroughly checking the antecedents of foreign students before allowing admission” while Chowgule College in Margao has put in place a “filtering process” before admission is granted to any (foreign) student. Educational institutes have welcomed the police crackdown on rogue students but add that care should be taken to ensure genuine students are not harassed.
North Goa Superintendent of Police Vijay Singh said the on-going exercise will help curb the menace in the coastal belt. South Goa Superintendent of Police Arvind Gawas said they have registered a few cases but foreigners including those misusing student visas tend to congregate in the northern belt because of the active nightlife there.