Hostile Environment: How Risk-averse Universities Penalise Migrants
In April, lecturers went on strike over pension changes, but they put more than just their wages at risk. Since 2016, employers must report all skilled workers with tier 2 visas who have more than 20 days of unpaid absence in a year to the Home Office. As a result, migrant lecturers who took action risked deportation. This is only one effect of the UK government’s “hostile environment policy” for illegal migrants that may affect university staff and students who are in the country legally, according to Sanaz Raji, founder of campaign group Unis Resist Border Controls. The group is launching a survey to discern how institutions have responded to immigration policies.
URBC has shown its support for Ahmed Sedeeq, an Iraqi PhD student at the University of Sheffield, who was forced to shorten his student visa after having his asylum application denied. A university representative declared that Ahmed is now back in school, and that they will continue to provide guidance to both him and all international pupils regarding UK immigration and visas.
According to Raji, many UK universities have been unnecessarily complicit in the "hostile environment policy," and she urges student and staff groups, as well as educational institutions, to provide greater support to victims, including access to legal counsel. "The lack of resistance to the UK university system’s policies is cause for concern," she warns.
Universities UK confirms that its members have collaborated with the Home Office to ensure that any changes to immigration compliance are proportionate and reasonable. A Home Office spokesperson confirms that the number of visa applications sponsored by universities is higher than it was in 2010. The spokesperson also highlights that there are no limits on the number of genuinely international students who can come to the UK to study.