Over three hundred students, lecturers and members of the University and College Union converged outside the Home Office in central London on Wednesday demanding an amnesty for international students at London Metropolitan University.
A petition signed by more than 2500 people was handed over to officials, which demands an amnesty for the 2700 international students at LMU at risk of deportation.
The UK Border Agency removed London Metropolitan University’s right to sponsor international students last week following a report claiming their responsibilities for hosting foreign students were being abused.
The decision made last week means that thousands of students enrolled at London Met could be deported, unless another university agrees to take them on.
Demonstrators marched to 10 Downing Street, brandishing placards reading “Education not Deportation” and chanting “UKBA – deportations go away”. The atmosphere was “charged” but peaceful.
EastLondonLines will be delivering updates to this story as they arrive.
Mark Campbell, UCU branch chair at London Met, pledged that any international students who turn up at the start of term will be taught in spite of the ban.
Cliff Snaith, a lecturer at London Met in charge of undergraduate learning who led the petition delegation, said: “We asked them to reverse the decision and explained the misery that was being caused to our students. This is entirely unnecessary.
“I also explained that the university may well be taking judicial review action against them – but as they know perfectly well, we don’t want that to need to happen. We want them to reverse the decision so that all of that expense is unnecessary – simple as that.”
A police officer on the scene said the protest had been “relatively peaceful considering what an emotive subject it is”. Police believe the march will disperse towards the end of the afternoon.
Speaking at the protest, MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn branded the ruling a “disgusting attack by the UKBA” which would threaten the rights of over two thousand students in this country.
He said:”Their families have scrimped and saved so that their sons and daughters can come here to study. I say to London Met :’Take legal action and stand up for these students’.”
Nigerian Bello Lukman, a London Met student and vice-president of Equality and Divesity at LMU’s student union, said international students were “a step away from being deported” despite having not broken the law.
He said: “if the UKBA people are having problems with the university management they should deal with the university management, and not be punishing the international students”.
But Snaith told EastLondonLines he feared that other universities would be next. He said: “We know that other universities have been subject to UKBA attention. We know that the UKBA rules make no sense.
“We don’t believe that the remit of UKBA should in any case extend to international students who are not immigrations – they are not here on a permanent basis. We do not think that UKBA have any interest whatsoever, or should have any interest whatsoever, in academic, education or teaching issues.”
Demonstrations will be called at universities across the country on Friday 14th September. EastLondonLines will keep you updated on events in East London.
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Written by Alan Dymock and Simon Newton