[Air-L] Academics and Activist Against Xenophobia

Sanaz Raji sanaz.raji at gmail.com
Tue Nov 18 07:13:26 PST 2014

This statement has already been endorsed by more than 50 individuals
including National Union of Students (UK) and University College Union
representatives in addition to David Palumbo-Liu, Professor, Stanford
University,  Dr Adi Kuntsman, Manchester Metropolitan University, Sima
Shakhsari, Assistant professor, Wellesley College, and Mark LeVine (UC
irvine, Lund University).

*If you agree with the statement, please send me a personal message along
with your university/organizational affiliation. *

We, the undersigned, are academics, activists, and students deeply
concerned about the growing xenophobia of the Home Office, which is harming
our fellow non-EU colleagues and students and often preventing them from
teaching, researching, and studying in British higher education.

As indicated in a Times Higher Education piece in January 2014 [*
universities are being discouraged from hiring non-EU academics, many of
whom are the top scholars in their field. Non-EU academic staff, especially
those who have completed their PhD research in the UK, are finding
themselves at the mercy of an exploitative neoliberal higher education
system that is bolstered by Home Office's punitive immigration policy,
making it incredibly difficult to gain a work visa despite being offered
employment. In other instances, non-EU scholars are increasingly being
denied visas to attend academic conferences and to work on collaborative
projects with their British counterparts [*
We do not believe that preventing non-EU scholars from entering the UK to
take part in the production of knowledge and research helps our
universities to maintain their world class position.

However, the situation for non-EU international students who are already
here is also appalling. While we saw British students decry the
heavy-handed police involvement on campuses last year as part of the
#CopsOffCampus initiative and, in particular, the horrendous treatment
suffered by Defend Education Birmingham protesters on the University of
Birmingham campus, little is known about police surveillance inflicted on
non-EU students from a selection of countries who are forced to register
with the police as demanded by their visa requirement. In some
universities, most notably at Ulster University and Sunderland University,
non-EU international students are subjected to biometric fingerprinting and
further humiliating surveillance. We fail to understand how treating non-EU
international students like criminals constitutes a welcoming and
hospitable environment.

Adding insult to injury, academics are being told they are obliged to
inform the Home Office if they have any suspicions that a student is
breaching the conditions of his or her leave to remain in the UK, or if the
student is engaging in ‘suspicious behaviour.’ The discriminatory treatment
of non-EU international students doesn't stop there. Despite non-EU
international students paying exorbitant tuition fees, from £14,000 to over
£20,000, that in turn helps fund the studies of British students, from May
2015, students and workers from outside the EU will have to pay a ‘NHS
surcharge’ of up to £200 per year before they are given a visa.

And what happens to non-EU international students who encounter substandard
education and services at their universities? Instead of the educational
provider being penalised for their failure to provide for the needs of
their students, it is the students who have faced the wrath of UKBA, as was
seen by students at London Metropolitan University in 2012 and now
at Glyndwr University, who were forced to find another educational provider
within 60 days or face deportation. Why should non-EU international
students be punished in such a draconian manner for the failings of their

As National Union of Students (NUS) International Officer, Shreya Paudel
has remarked,

‘We have been informed of some students being called for a “meeting” with
the Home Office and then being detained to be deported. Even proven British
criminals have substantially more rights to challenge a case against them
than international students. Even the minimum legal concept of ‘innocent
before proven guilty’ does not apply to international students.’


The state- and media-imposed xenophobia directed at non-EU international
students has now led to increased racist verbal and physical attacks, and
even outright murder, as we witnessed this summer in Essex in the case of a
Saudi international PhD student at Essex University, Nahid Almanea.
Initiatives such as the I'm Not Welcome Campaign [*
<https://www.facebook.com/imnotwelcome/timeline>*] have documented many
incidents of both racial and xenophobic attacks on and off campus against
non-EU international students, especially those who are people of colour.
The campaign also underscores the failure of universities, the Home Office,
and the student movement to understand the particular needs of non-EU
international students and academic staff.

The xenophobic and racist rhetoric faced daily by non-EU international
students is exemplified by the comments of Nigel Carrington, Vice
Chancellor of the University of Arts London (UAL), who said in August 2014
to The Independent [*
that while non-EU international students are needed in order to prevent an
increase in tuition fees for British students, they 'undermine our economy'
because they take away the skills honed in the UK and use them to ‘go home
and build their creative industries to compete against us.’ Mr. Carrington
fails to question why non-EU international students and academic staff
leave the UK and let their skills flourish elsewhere? He would do well to
reflect on how fanning the flames of xenophobia in this way will affect the
already hostile environment against migrants where racial attacks are
frequent thanks to Theresa May's policies and the notorious ‘go home’ vans.
Mr. Carrington appears to be unaware that it is now impossible for non-EU
international students to remain legally in the UK after they finish their
courses if they do not have a job offer, because in 2012 the government
phased out the post-study work visa (which allowed non-EU international
students the right to seek work for 2 years in the UK), replacing it with a
graduate entrepreneur visa, requiring ‘genuine and credible’ business
ideas. Mr. Carrington, like many other university vice-chancellors, clearly
regards non-EU international students as cash cows who are essential if
they themselves are to retain their inflated six figure salaries and luxury
lifestyles. It is they who are running British higher education to the
ground, not non-EU international students and academic staff.

Even more shameful is the treatment of those non-EU academics and students
who dare to speak out against the rampant neoliberalism within higher
education and the way universities use their precarious immigration status
to force them out of the country in order to silence their voices and
activism. Ongoing cases and campaigns like that of Sanaz
Raji (Justice4Sanaz campaign) [*
and past threats directed at Dr. Casey Brienza [
by her employer regarding her immigration status are only two examples of a
widespread abuses in this context. The fact that non-EU academics and
students cannot challenge a university for continually failing to meet its
own standards speaks volumes about the nature of the once highly regarded
British higher education system.

We call for an end to state-imposed xenophobia and racism against non-EU
international students and an end to draconian restrictions placed upon
them. We call for a fairer system that does not penalise non-EU academics
and students or seek to limit their contributions. Without these changes
British higher education will inevitably become more insular and mediocre
and unable to achieve and maintain world-class standards. Finally, we call
on other UK academics to speak out and take a lead as professionals and
intellectuals against turning the country's higher education institutions
into a racist money making endeavour, destroying the spirit and integrity
of the very idea of knowledge and learning.

Link to statement here:

Many thanks,
Sanaz Raji
+44 (0) 780 7873 550
Web: http://leeds.academia.edu/SanazRaji

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