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Authorities Suspect Abuse of Student Visas

The number of illegal immigrants from Africa is on the rise. The Border Guard is investigating a number of criminal cases involving suspected illegal entry into Finland by Nigerians. According to the Foreign Ministry, Finnish colleges and universities send thousands of invitations annually to young Nigerians, inviting them to come to Finland to take entry examinations. Most are provincial polytechnics trying to attract foreign students to shore up declining attendance. So far this year, hundreds of Nigerians have been granted student permits. Authorities say that recipients of these permits have committed dozens of violations of immigration laws. These include attempts by visa recipients to bring other people into the country. The Finnish Embassy in Abuja, which is responsible for most of West Africa, says it cannot keep up with the flood of visa applications by students saying they want to go to Finland to take entrance exams. In 2006, the Directorate of Immigration issued 200 student visas to West Africans -- mostly Nigerians. Last year there were 400, and so far there have been 600 applications. Border Guard Suspects Ulterior Motive

According to Major Ilkka Herranen of the Border Guard, many of those coming in are illiterate and are clearly not coming here primarily to study, but rather to gain entrance to the EU area. He says their trips here have been arranged by others, to whom the would-be students have paid large sums.

The Ministry of Education agrees that there have been problems with such foreign students. It is now considering whether entrance exams could be held in Nigeria, which would make it clearer which applicants are genuinely interested in coming here to study.

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