Students NOT Suspects

More than 30 staff and students from Goldsmiths College, University of London held a protest outside the Warden’s Office at the university on Friday 11 March. They were from the Students Not Suspects campaign, which has been resisting the turn to make university staff into border agents by helping the surveillance of overseas students on campus at the behest of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA).

As part of the crack-down on students from outside the EEA studying in the UK, learning institutions are required to inform the UKBA if any visiting student’s attendance at college drops beneath a certain level. The means of checking are variable and unreliable. In some cases students have been sent emails to their college email address requesting they come to college and present their passports to administrative staff. Some students at university do not use their college email addresses, preferring to continue using their personal address, and therefore have failed to make such appointments, endangering their registration at University and subsequently failing to fulfil visa requirements.

One name is one too many

Des Freedman, secretary of UCU, the lecturers’ union, at the college and a supporter of ‘Students not Suspects’ explained the inadequacies of the system and its discriminatory nature. Originally a list of 200 names of students at Goldsmiths was due to be handed to the UKBA. That list now has just 20 names on it and management had promised that they had no plans to hand over any names to UKBA. However, he said that even one name handed to the authorities in error was one name too many and that the campaign would continue, and needed to gather momentum.

James Haywood, president-elect of Goldsmiths Students Union and another leading light in the SNS campaign spoke of a meeting with College management the previous day. Thanks to the campaigning those present had done various concessions had been won. Management say they are forced to hand over the names if they wish to achieve “Highly Trusted Sponsor Plus” status for obtaining student visas in the coming years. The HTS status was designed to clear out ‘bogus’ colleges in a crack down under the previous government, now the Coalition wish to offer an enhanced status to the most compliant universities.

The speakers pointed out the value that overseas students bring to UK Universities and the economic hardship that will result from cutting overseas students numbers, for both the university and the local economy, the practical racism in targeting students from outside the EEA and the terrible effect that limiting numbers of students from around the world on the general experience of attending university for all students and staff.

Spreading the Campaign

The Students NOT Suspects campaign was established in January last year at Goldsmiths College, with weekly organising meetings and constant campaigning it offers a hope to all of us dismayed with the trajectory of government policy effecting overseas students. They have organised teach-ins, linked up with activists outside the university for actions and protests and have put tremendous effort into spreading the campaign to other colleges and universities.

Students at the London School of Economics are active in a similar way, but they appear to be the exception. The campaigns from the two colleges are joining forces to organise a public meeting to be held at The LSE on 22 March, students from other colleges interested in getting actions going in their colleges should make sure they get to the meeting. We will be announcing more details when we get them.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

3 responses to “Students NOT Suspects

  • charity

    I’m in support of the protest and campaign for student Not suspects, as i was suspected of being a bogus student and my visa cancelled while i was waiting to commence a new course in glasgow after leaving london but the college i left in london was found to be bogus by the Home Office and closed down. No proper investigation was conducted before my visa was cancelled no one wanted to listen to my own side of the story that the college in london was not operating nor functioning properly sincethen I have beening living like a fugitive since June 2008 even though i have obtain an HNC certificate with SQA that is the Scottish Qualification Authority in semptember 2010 paying international tuition fees without my visa been retured to me. The racial discrimination is terrible and frigthening this is slavery in the 21st century in a developed country like UK who claim to preach democracy and the protection of fundamental human right it’s a shame.

  • charity

    notify me of the follow-up comments via email

  • NCADC news round-up, 16 March « NCADC news

    […] Students NOT Suspects JCWI, 16 March 2011 […]

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