London, Apr.11 (ANI): At least two of the men suspected of being members of an alleged al-Qaeda cell were allowed to stay in Britain despite breaching conditions of their student visas, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. 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.
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 Gordon Brown 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.
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 pounds boost to the economy which the Government is keen to encourage. (ANI)