- Tower Hamlets
Hundreds of foreign students are queuing throughout the night to register with the police to stay in the UK.
While the Overseas Visitors Records Office opens at 9am, students begin queuing in the early hours to ensure they secure their registration.
Many students have repeatedly been turned away due to low numbers of staff dwarfed by the high volume of students.
At 6am there were nearly one hundred students queuing.
The first student in the queue, Didem Poyraz, 25, an exchange student from Turkey, started queuing at 12am.
She said: “It’s really bad. I’ve queued here several times before and have been turned away.”
Didem tells how it is the first time she has come to the UK and finds the experience “really difficult”.
“I don’t want to be here – it’s really cold.”
Iryna Bonoarak, 18, at Westminster University, started queuing for the fourth time at 3am. She said: “We’re actually freezing – we’ve had to bring food, drink and blankets.”
One student, who preferred to remain anonymous, left her studies at Brunel University at 2am and paid for a taxi to travel almost 20 miles to reach the Records Office.
Huddled in a blanket, she said: “I think they should locate offices across London. It’s safer that way because students don’t have to travel in the night and wait for hours in the cold.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the way registration was implemented was a matter for local police. In turn, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement that such queues were “usual” for the time of year and that registration with police was “required by law”. The force noted that it had started opening the office at 7:30 am instead of 9 am to cope with the influx.
A statement from the police refused to be drawn on the reasons for the rise in numbers, but said: “The extended opening hours began in the middle of September, and will remaind until the end of October…we will look at each case individually and will be sympathetic where people have not been able to register within the seven day limit.
“Some universities have been able to use a pre-book service to allow students to register on Saturdays. All of these slots have now been allocated.”
Dr Matthew Fuller, of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, told EastLondonLines that some of his students had become ill from having to spend a night in the street.
He said: “One student was unable to attend my class because he had developed a severe cold. He wasn’t prepared to be sleeping outside all night in the rain.”
Volunteers from Mile End’s East London Tabernacle Baptist Church provided hot chocolate and snacks for the students.
Jonathan Ward, an international student worker from the church, said: “This is a bit rubbish for these guys.”
On Wednesday the Home Office published a message to students in an attempt to deter them from queuing in the early hours.
It reads: “In the interest of health and safety we would kindly request that you do not start queuing at this time as it forces us to close our queues as early as 6.30am.”
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt has criticized the poor conditions and the damage it has done to Britain’s international reputation.
“At a time when we need to be attracting the brightest brains to this country, and are already facing huge competition from other countries, we seem to be intent on committing PR disasters for the whole world to see.
The plight of international students has been highlighted recently by the UKBA’s decision to bar London Metropolitan University from sponsoring foreign students.
In September the High Court granted LMU the right to contest the decision in court, allowing over 2500 students who were at risk of deportation to begin their studies at the start of term as hoped.
EastLondonLines published a series of opinion pieces by overseas students who had gone through the UK visa process.