British Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Thursday said that Indians are the largest group that overstays its visa in the United Kingdom, London-based magazine The Spectator reported.

In an interview to the weekly, Braverman described the matter as a concern for the free trade agreement which India and the United Kingdom are looking to finalise by the end of this year. Easing immigration rules is part of the agreement.

“I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit,” Braverman told The Spectator.

If Braverman decides to walk the talk on her opposition to easing immigration policies for Indians, her stance would be against that of British Prime Minister Liz Truss who wants to finalise the free trade agreement within the deadline set by her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Asked about the flexibility of visa rules for Indian students and entrepreneurs, Braverman told The Spectator that she has her reservations on the matter.

“...The largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants,” she said. “We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better co-operation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well.”

Braverman was referring to the Migration and Mobility Partnership signed by her predecessor at the Home Office Priti Patel and Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in May last year. The deal allows up to 3,000 Indians between the ages of 18 and 30 to live and work in the UK for two years annually.

Also read: Britain badly wants a trade deal with India – and it may offer thousands of work visas in return

Braverman’s comments to The Spectator came three days after she spoke against low-skilled migrants and the growing numbers of student visas being issued.

“I do think we do get to a point where we have to look at some of the courses that people are doing in this country, some of the institutions, they are not always very good quality,” she had said at the Conservative Party annual conference held on Tuesday.

More than one lakh Indian students received a UK visa till June 2022 – an 89% increase from the previous year, PTI reported, citing data from the British Home Office. The rise in numbers resulted in India overtaking China as the country to which highest number of student visas were issued by the UK to study in its higher education institutions.

Braverman was named as the British home secretary by Truss on September 6. She is the daughter of Hindu Tamil mother Uma and Goan-origin father Christie Fernandes. Her mother migrated to the UK from Mauritius while her father migrated from Kenya in the 1960s, according to PTI.

Action in all cases of visa overstay, says India

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom claimed on Friday that New Delhi has initiated action in all cases of its citizens overstaying their visas, PTI reported.

In response to questions from the news agency, the Indian High Commission said that India awaits “demonstrable progress” on certain commitments undertaken by the UK government under the Migration and Mobility Partnership signed in May last year.

“As per the data shared with the Home Office, as of date, action has been initiated on all of the cases referred to the High Commission,” the diplomatic office said in its statement, according to PTI.

On Braverman’s reservations on the free trade agreement, the High Commission noted that the deal will “include issues of interest to both sides”.