Monday, July 4

School trips to the UK from the EU could be cut in half as Brexit hits cultural exchanges | School trips

French and German educational travel organizers who bring up to 750,000 school pupils to the UK each year have warned that stricter post-Brexit entry requirements are likely to cut the number of young Europeans visiting Britain by half.

“We’ve already seen a big drop in interest,” said Edward Hisbergues, sales manager for a leading French operator, PG Trips. “My business was 90% UK, 10% Ireland; now it’s about Ireland. Schools are asking about visits to the Netherlands or Malta. “

The British government has rejected requests by organizers to exempt children participating in organized short educational trips from the new passport and visa measures that will take effect on October 1, saying they are necessary to strengthen Britain’s borders. .

Organizers said that many thousands of UK host families, language schools, hotels and other businesses across the country, and especially in cities like Canterbury that specialize in the education market, are at risk of significant economic shock.

They also said that the new border restrictions could inflict broader and long-term damage to Britain’s relations with Europe.

School trips “foster cross-cultural understanding and reduce prejudice,” wrote the German federation of leading school trip organizers, whose members make 7,000 trips a year to the UK, representing more than 1.5 million overnight stays.

“They forge lifelong connections to the UK, increase tolerance for people, cultures and different ways of living and thinking, and help to acquire language skills in the most important language internationally.”

Hisbergues said that school trips abroad “really open my eyes. They can inspire children and change the course of young people’s lives. “

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Ingo Dobbert, vice president of the German federation, said that German children run the risk of “being excluded from the valuable experience their predecessors had of traveling and living in the UK.”

French and German organizers said the UK government’s decision not to accept any more EU national ID cards to enter Britain from October 1 would deter less well-off families as the cost of a passport It could increase the price of a trip by 10-20%. per child, depending on age.

They are particularly concerned about the abolition of collective passports, the ‘travelers list’ scheme that allowed non-EU students, usually from immigrant families, to travel as part of an organized group without the need for a UK visa. .

Schools in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU countries often allow travel only if all students in the class are able to participate, which means that groups with only one student from outside the EU “will no longer consider to Britain as a viable option “due to the cost and administrative hassle of obtaining a UK visa, organizers said.

Between 5% and 10% of German children on school trips to the UK would have to apply for a visa costing £ 95 under the new rules, the companies said, while half of French trips would be at risk for it. reason.

In letters sent to Boris Johnson and the Home Office, organizers noted that school trips generate much-needed income for many UK host families, as well as museums, theaters and attractions such as Stonehenge, the London Eye and the Brighton Pavilion, usually outside of the peak holiday season.

“In many British cities, visiting students are a vital part of the local economy,” wrote the German federation. France’s 10,000 school trips a year represent a direct annual contribution to the UK economy of £ 100 million, French organizers said. Dobbert said he felt the British government “was not thinking about the long-term impact of this.”

Susan Jones from LinguaStay, a UK homestay provider, said her company welcomes 10,000 mainland schoolchildren a year to Chester, with 300 regular host families and six employees.

“So many people, with so much to lose,” he said. “The short stay educational travel market will die. And these are school-age children traveling with their teachers, not a security threat. “

Both French and German organizers called on the government to consider allowing under-18s to travel as part of organized trips lasting less than two weeks to enter the UK with ID cards, and urged it to maintain the “list of travelers “for school groups.

Future Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster rejected their requests and said in responses to multiple individuals and organizations that the government was “committed to strengthening the security of our border.”

As of October 1, most citizens of the European Economic Area “will require a passport like everyone else,” Foster said, adding that the “traveler’s list” scheme would end on the same date and “all students Regardless of their nationality, they will need a passport, and visa if necessary, to visit the UK on an organized school trip ”.

Continuing with the scheme would go against plans for a “position where everyone gets an individual permit before traveling from the Interior Ministry,” he said, with those permits used to “keep those who may pose a threat away from our border. and facilitate the passage of legitimate travelers ”.

Foster added that the government had “given almost a year ‘s notice of these changes to allow people to plan ahead and obtain a passport and visa if necessary, before traveling.”

Dobbert said his federation had “the strong impression” that the British government “has very little understanding of the problems we will have in equipping children with passports and organizing visas for non-German citizens.”

He said the new measures “would make the costs of a trip to the UK skyrocket and would have a considerable influence on our decision to travel to the UK. It will force us to choose alternative English-speaking destinations ”.

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