Crime and Foreign Students in Britain

July 23, 2010

For the majority of international students, life in Britain is peaceful and safe. But occasionally an overseas student is sucked into a gambling racket or, as in one case, lands in jail for running a fish and chip shop as a front to launder money.

Overseas students as both victims and perpetrators of crime were among subjects discussed in a British Council session on international student safety at the UK Council for International Students conference in York last week.

The council presented the results of its Creating Confidence survey, which found that of the 3,000 inter­national students who responded, 9 percent had been victims of crime during their time in the UK. That was down from 14 per cent in the survey of three years ago.

While 61 per cent of crimes committed against international students were theft or attempted theft, the session heard about some more unusual offenses.

Helen Clews, of the British Council, said a police force in the North East believes that Chinese students are “being targeted by other Chinese residents or students, encouraging them to gamble their money away – their funds and living costs. They think it is a massive problem for international students at the ­moment.”

Another potential problem inter­national students face is falling victim to identity fraudsters, as they frequently move addresses and forget to have bank statements sent on.

The audience of university international officers discussed the requirement for some overseas students to register with the police in the UK, which is seen as offensive by many students. Nationals from 42 countries, including China and Brazil, must provide their address and a copy of their passport to police on arrival – for which they must pay £34.

The session also discussed international students as perpetrators of crime. One participant said that some Chinese students, unfamiliar with British laws, had become involved in cigarette smuggling.

Another said that her university had seen one of its international students jailed for setting up a fish and chip shop that turned out to be a money-laundering operation.

Clews advised international officers to sit in on police briefings that aim to help international students adjust to UK society and laws. The session heard about some helpful advice offered by one ­police officer to an international student: “You can’t carry that ­machete with you to college.”

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