Lunchtime protests outside east end universities join London Met students for visa amnesty

Pic: James Woodcock

Over one hundred students and lecturers protested at London Metropolitan University on Holloway Road on Friday as part of a UK-wide action against the UK Border Agency’s decision to strip LMU of its sponsorship rights.

The protest rallied against the threat of deportation hanging over 2,700 international students at London Met, demanding an amnesty for those effected.

As part of a wider campaign involving universities across the UK, actions in solidarity of LMU students were planned in Manchester and Cardiff, and student unions and universities made statements in support of the protests.

On Thursday Universities Minister David Willets announced a two million pound fund to cover costs incurred by international students finding new institutions.

A task force has been set up by the Higher Education Funding Council to get the students through a “mini-clearing” process, working with the UK Border Agency, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and LMU to find new places for them.

The DBIS said it had no further comment on the situation since Willetts’ speech.

More actions are planned and the issue is expected to be part of the National Student Demonstration on November 21.

Jamie Woodcock, a PhD Student at Goldsmiths, University of London, was participating in the demonstration. He said the situation had wider implications than students having to find new universities.

“For many studentst means repeating a year and paying another year’s tuition. A victory would be London Met students being allowed to stay at London Met and continue for their studies.

“This is not a one off event but a combination of racist immigration policies combining with forces of privatisation on education as part of a broader attack on public services.”

Doreen Barber, a US citizen who studied at SOAS in London from 2009 to 2010, and now lives and works in London, told EastLondonLines that her experiences as an international student were full delays and failures of communication with immigration authorities.

She said: “At the beginning of the year some of us were told we had visas until November 2010. When I talked to an advisor as SOAS it turned out that UKBA was going through changes and to get an extra four months you had to go to uni for a full year to the day, where as mine [the visa] was only until September because it [the course] was a couple of weeks shy.”

“If someone has the initiative to to to another country, if they are passionate about living in a place or working a a field, then why not let them stay?”

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