The Hostile Environment Policy allows universities to get rid of migrant workers who might be troublemakers. Migrant students too, for that matter. Unis Resist Border Controls speaker The second workshop of the day featured a representative of the group Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC) and was concerned with the question of what we, as individuals within the university system, do to resist border controls. The speaker began with a message of solidarity for the 120 migrant women currently participating in hunger strikes at the Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Center.
The Hostile Environment Policy allows universities to get rid of migrant workers who might be troublemakers. Migrant students too, for that matter.
The second workshop of the day featured a representative of the group Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC) and was concerned with the question of what we, as individuals within the university system, do to resist border controls.
The speaker began with a message of solidarity for the 120 migrant
women currently participating in
at the Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Center. She then introduced
the URBC campaign, which had begun in March 2016, and detailed
their manifesto, including points calling for
a fundamental end to UKVI and PREVENT surveillance and for
British students, lecturers and university workers to not collude
or be complicit with the border controls culture on university
Hostile Environment Policy
(HEP) implemented during Prime Minister Theresa May’s
authoritarian tenure as Home Secretary had to be understood. The
policy referred to a raft of measures introduced with the express
aim of creating a
hostile environment within the UK for
immigrants. May would routinely claim that the targets were the
illegal immigrants, but the primary suffered in the years
since have been the legal. When asked what the HEP entailed, one
workshop participant replied that it meant
sending vans around that say . I had somehow missed that story, and was amazed to find out that
taking the piss.
go home immigrants
The speaker continued to detail some other aims of the movement,
which I thought were rather getting beyond the issue at hand, such
an end to fossil fuels and the arms trade, but I suppose
that’s the nature of this sort of group. As we discussed the
various manifestations of the HEP further, I became aware of my own,
strange position as a UK–US dual national living outside of
the US. Whilst the UK nationality had insulated me from the UK HEP,
my US nationality and the demands placed upon me because of it are
an example of the US attempting to create a hostile environment for
me anywhere _out_side of the US. For example, thanks to the 2010
FACTA and FBAR
(thanks, Obama), Uncle Sam believes he has the right to tax
my worldwide income in perpetuity, despite me have never lived in
the US. FBAR means that UK banks have to provide the IRS with
records of my finances so that they can verify I’m not holding
out on them—the result is that many UK banks will
refuse US citizens. It’s a rather surreal situation, to say the least.
We moved onto the question at hand:
how does the HEP affect university? The answer was
multi-factored. For one, attendance monitoring under the guise of
pastoral care is used to report truant Tier 4 visa-holders to
the Home Office for potential deportation. In Lancaster, this takes
the rather Orwellian form of a mobile phone application that
connects with Bluetooth beacons when close enough to register
attendance at a given lecture theatre. In other universities this
apparently goes further, up to biometric monitoring and electronic
tags. International students are also required to register with the
police upon enrolment, and god forbid they move house (as tends to
happen each year of a degree) and forget to tell the police
immediately. This surveillance regime was cited as a reason for the
lack of international students on the UCU pickets—they simply
couldn’t risk it.
The speaker then ran through a history of university collusion with
the Home Office in enforcing the HEP. The immigration system that
required this collusion, she added, predated May, beginning with
the Blair government
and culminating in 2009 with the introduction of the points-based
immigration system. Universities were told that if they wanted a
license to sponsor international students—which they surely
did, as those students represent something of a cash cow—they
would have to engage in profiling. The UCU did, for their part, try
to deliver a
fuck you to the Home Office. The response,
according to the speaker, was one of
well, fuck you back then. The universities needed the
students, and so they complied.
The collusion of universities was highlighted during the 2009 cleaner strikes at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SoAS). The university called the cleaners, who were striking in the hopes of their services being brought in-house rather than remaining outsourced, to an early morning meeting. When they arrived, immigration officials conducted a raid and captured a handful of the primary instigators, include a woman who was four months pregnant. They were soon deported back to South America. One lecture theatre at SoAS is now known colloquially as the Lucas Lecture Theatre, after the pregnant organiser’s eventual son. This demonstrated the use of the HEP in removing dissenting voices.
Highly Trusted Sponsor
(HTS) accreditation was added as an additional requirement from
universities who wanted to take on international students. In 2012,
London Metropolitan University was apparently found to have made an
administrative error in its HTS paperwork. As a result, its status
and international students were given just 60 days to enrol at other
universities or face deportation. The speaker pointed out that
London Met had a high proportion of minority students—
if they had have checked at Oxford, she claimed,
they wouldn’t have had their papers in order either, nobody
did at that point.
She also pointed out that this was shortly after
the 2011 London riots. As many as 2,700 students had to find new institutions, and she
estimated that perhaps 400–500 failed to do o and were duly
She also pointed out that the Home Office makes a killing from all of this, charging £5.60 to send them an email inquiring about one’s visa request (cost not dependent on response). She also reinforced the classist aspects of the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016, which disproportionately affect working-class international students. The gave the example of the Indonesian government, which supposedly failed to pay for a number of university study abroad scholarships at the last minute. The wealthy Indonesian students simply coughed up and graduated; the poor ones couldn’t, and didn’t.
We finished the workshop by forming up into groups and considering a
true case with which URBC had consulted. We received that of a
Nigerian student who was sofa-surfing—
in other words—due to being unable to rent accommodation
during his Ph.D. as landlords required his passport or proof of
study, and the former was with the Home Office for a visa extension
whilst the university were dragging their heels with the latter.
What came out of it, and the other case studies, was that
there’s an awful lot of hoops to jump through and
organisations to get fobbed off by. Whilst I have, as I said, my own
nationality-related ballaches, I’m certainly appreciative of
how much more terrible it is to try and make one’s way here in
the UK without the passport.