‘All students in the UK should walk out’ – London Met NUS President calls for national action

Students and lecturers outside the London Met Board of Governors meeting on Monday
Students and lecturers outside the London Met Board of Governors meeting on Monday

ANGRY London Metropolitan University students are rallying outside the Home Office in Marsham Street in central London at 1.00pm today, determined to defeat the coalition government’s massive attack.

Last Thursday, London Met had its licence to sponsor the visas of international students revoked, with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) accusing them of studying here illegally.

This means that around 2,000 international London Met students have just 60 days to find another university or face deportation and being unable to complete their degrees.

On Monday, London Met students and staff held an angry lobby of the university’s board of governors at its headquarters in Moorgate.

The London Met National Union of Students President and Vice President both told News Line that they would be taking the struggle to the opening day of the TUC Conference in Brighton this coming Sunday.

London Met NUS President Ayoula Onifade said: ‘There is no institution that is ready to take us on. I’m affected too. I’m president of the Students Union and I represent all the students at London Met.

‘I’m very angry. The decision is immoral and inhumane.

‘The issue is that they have found someone guilty and they are punishing the just for doing the right thing.

‘The decision puts students in an impossible position, because at this time they cannot get an alternative university.

‘Beyond that, they have spent a lot of years studying and they have spent a lot of money.

‘How can they find that money again or those years?

‘If I have my way all students in the UK should walk out of their lectures in support of the London Met students.

‘This is justified because the decision has put all students at risk and has damaged UK higher education.’

London Met NUS Vice President Bello Lukman said: ‘It’s very devastating and is having a traumatic effect on the students at the university.

‘A lot of the students have put a lot of trust in UK education and a lot of money has been invested, but what has been happening for the last couple of weeks now has really upset them and they are scared of what is going to happen.

‘If the revocation of the licence is allowed to stand, a lot of students will not get admission at another school or they will have to repeat their studies, and many of them might be deported.

‘We are a union and part of the struggle nationwide against the excesses of the coalition government and we definitely want the TUC to take up our struggle.

‘If students have to leave the university then a lot of staff will have to be made redundant or be sacked, and these are TUC members.

‘So we must have a common front.’

Other students also spoke to News Line.

Sara Sattar, studying International Relations, said: ‘It’s ridiculous and it’s not fair. It’s a decision that has been made overnight and it has to be stopped.

‘All the students have to be allowed to graduate and the university must get its licence back.’

Nida Zadi, an international relations and business studies student, said: ‘I have only one semester left and this is like a bomb exploding under me.

‘I’ve spoken to lots of my fellow students and we all feel the same. We all came to this country with legal visas and proper documentation, which the UKBA already checked, and now this!

‘Also it’s really embarrassing. Back home everyone is looking at the news. It’s very widely telecast. It’s a disgrace to this country.

‘I truly believed that I was going to graduate with flying colours, put a graduate’s hat on my head, and now this!

‘It seems it’s never going to come true.’

Tanima Shams, an international student, said: ‘I’m not exactly frightened, but I’m really angry.

‘The university must have its licence returned and the students must not be victimised.’

Mark Campbell, Chair of the London Met UCU lecturers’ union branch, told News Line: ‘It’s an outrage, our international students are being used as political pawns in the agenda of this government to target immigration figures.

‘International students shouldn’t be included in immigration figures.

‘All international students are welcome here and we restate our commitment to teaching our students and as such we are demanding an amnesty for all London Met students.

‘This lobby is to demand our governors support that demand and also back our demonstration outside the Home Office today at 1.00pm.

‘To facilitate this, we are calling on the governors release staff to allow them to attend.

‘However, it should be noted that at Monday’s very well attended joint UCU-Unison meeting we voted unanimously to walk out and attend the Home Office lobby with or without management permission.

‘This is our number one priority at this time.

‘We will stand with our students.’

Law student Ferdous Sultana told News Line: ‘I’m a second year law student, my graduation is threatened and I’m very upset and angry.

‘It’s very immoral, so unjust, unethical, and, I believe, unlawful.

‘I believe it is unlawful because they say it is the university’s fault and yet they have issued a blanket ruling on all international students.

‘That is both unjust and also it must be illegal.

‘I have been given a visa until 2014 to finish my graduation, and suddenly they say “find another university or we’ll kick you out.”

‘I believe I must be allowed to finish my studies on the same date, in the same university, on the same course, and for the same money that I have already spent.

‘We are fighting for our rights and we aim to win.’