City’s proposals to ban foreign students from shops to cut thefts branded as ‘racist and ridiculous’

By Luke Salkeld
Last updated at 2:01 AM on 10th January 2012

Foreign students should be restricted from entering shops in groups to cut thefts according to a proposal which was yesterday branded ‘racist and ridiculous’.

The suggestion to limit the students’ access to stores while they study in the UK included in a report aimed at fighting crime.

But yesterday officials behind the report distanced themselves from the plan and claimed it was not supposed to be made public.

The scheme would have meant that foreign visitors learning English would only be allowed to enter shops a few at a time.

Its controversial proposal is set out in a report to Plymouth City Council’s Growth and Prosperity Overview and Scrutiny Panel.

It says: ‘Over the past five years we have seen in Plymouth, especially in the city centre area, a large influx of foreign students.

‘Feedback received from retailers has been that they have experienced an increase in shoplifting and anti-social behaviour from foreign students, incurring large financial loss.’

In the report, city centre manager Clint Jones said that Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc) had been working with Police Community Support Officers on Operation Drake ‘relating to foreign students’.

If it went ahead, stickers would be displayed in retail premises bearing the scheme’s logo, limiting the number of students from abroad allowed in at any one time.

Foreign students would also be asked to carry special cards containing ‘useful contact numbers’, and posters explaining Operation Drake would be displayed in all language schools.

Yesterday the idea attracted scorn from Plymouth residents, including Suzanne Sparrow, who runs a language school in the city.

She said: ‘This is way over the top. These allegations seem to have been taken out of any context and blown out of proportion.

‘Foreign students come here to study and to better themselves not to hang round the streets causing trouble.

‘The other point is that foreign students are important for the economy in Plymouth.

‘They actually bring money into the city and many stay here after their studies and bring skills to the area.

‘Why leave this stigma at foreign student’s door? ‘It is ridiculous when they are a very valuable injection into the local economy.’

Similar opinions were voiced on a local newspaper website, with one contributor writing: ‘It is racist to criticise foreign students for stealing or acting in a violent manner.’

Another commentator added: ‘Shocked at how racist this report is. What sort of city are we living in?’

Another asked: ‘Will we be sewing some symbol on to their clothes just so we know who the ‘different’ people are?’

Yesterday police and council officials both distanced themselves from the plan, which they said would not be implemented.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: ‘This issue has been taken completely out of context and risks damaging the very real and valuable work we do with language schools.

‘Operation Drake is a proactive project to positively engage with foreign language students, welcoming them to the city, giving them helpful information and advice.’

A spokesman for Plymouth City Centre Company said the suggestion had been quickly dismissed after it was raised and ‘can categorically state that none of the suggested actions within the report by Parc in relation to foreign students will be implemented in Plymouth.

‘These early suggestions, first discussed in September last year by Parc members, were deemed wholly inappropriate by Plymouth City Centre Company and the Police. Having already been dismissed, their inclusion in a report to the City Council was an oversight for which we apologise.’

The spokesman added: ‘Plymouth is home to scores of language schools and we welcome thousands of students each year.

‘We continue to work closely with language schools to ensure that students feel welcome, enjoy our city and have all the information they need for a safe and responsible stay.’

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