Recent Sussex MA student Luqman Onikosi is fighting the Home Office’s decision to deport him to Nigeria following their rejection of his leave to remain application, which was made on human rights grounds.
Luqman, who studied both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Sussex, has a chronic liver condition brought on by Hepatitis B and has applied to remain in Britain on human rights grounds. Effective treatment for his condition is not available in Nigeria and and Luqman says deportation would be an effective ‘death sentence.’
However, the Home Office does not consider his illness a mitigating circumstance. Speaking to The Badger, a Home Office spokesperson said: “All cases are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. Human rights claims on medical grounds are always considered in line with Article 3 of ECHR.”
Luqman’s supporters have set up the #DontDeportLuqman campaign, aiming to raise funds to go towards legal costs and to ‘save his life’. On the website, one of the organizers, Sussex MA student Callum Cant, explains: “To maintain his health, every six months Luqman must undergo a liver biopsy, liver function ultrasound scan, a muscle reflex test, a Hep B load test, Fibrosis score test, ALT Score test, E antigen test and liver function test”.
The campaign argues that this level of care would not be possible in Nigeria. Luqman has already lost two brothers, Hanuna and Kolade, to the same disease. They were both living in Nigeria and passed away in October 2011, and March 2012. Unless the Home Office reverses its decision and allows him to remain in the UK, Luqman believes the same fate will befall him.
The Home Office have previously attempted to deport Luqman. In 2012, a campaign successfully mobilised to oppose his deportation and he won the right to remain in Britain (and start his MA at Sussex) while the Home Office considered his leave to remain application submitted with the help of a pro bono lawyer on human rights grounds.
The #DontDeportLuqman campaign believes that, in Callum Cant’s words, “the Home Office has passed a death sentence against this young man. We now call on them to reverse their decision, and immediately grant Luqman leave to remain in the UK.” The campaign organisers write on the webpage: “(Luqman) needs money to seek further legal advice, and support a campaign to save his life. Anything you can spare will go towards, quite literally keeping Luqman alive.”
Last year, while in the final stages of his masters, Luqman’s right to study was withdrawn by the University of Sussex due to demand from the Home Office. His application to remain in Britain had been rejected by that point but he says that the Home Office did not notify him. Callum Cant claims that “Only in Late January 2016 did he obtain a copy of a letter, dated May 2015, telling him his application had been rejected.” He goes on to say that Luqman “is now at risk of detention and deportation at any time.”
This journalist contacted the University for comment about Luqman’s suspension, asking about their enforcement with the Home Office’s decision and to what extent they were legally forced to comply with the Home Office. The university declined to answer these questions directly, instead issuing The Badger with the following statement: “We are very sorry to hear about Mr Onikosi’s illness and understand that he has a group of supporters who are trying to help him to resolve his situation”.
The Home Office’s treatment of Luqman has made him and his supporters worried about how international students are treated in Britain. He told The Independent: “We are treated as ‘cash cows’ by most education institutions. We continue to add value to the UK economy through its international education system, reportedly worth up to £2.8 billion in London alone. In short, we are not treated as human, we are dispensable and even the relation of customer to a marketised education system is not enough to allow us to progress.”
Asked for her opinion on the matter, Postgraduate Officer Rose Taylor said: “It’s extremely sad that international students like Luqman are made to feel like ‘cash cows’- if you look at the way they are treated by our government it is no surprise that many feel like this.
Policies like the NHS surcharge (which overseas students are now required to pay), the scrapping of the post-study work visa in 2012 and the extortionate tuition fees that international students are expected to pay (a Masters at Sussex for an international student costs around £15,000) show how international students are used by the government and universities as a way to bring in money to the Higher Education System yet are given very little support- they are not being appreciated for the intellectual and social value that they can bring to the UK. I hope that students and academics across the country, the general public and the government realise the importance of students and researchers like Luqman and stand up for their right to stay in a country where they have made a life for themselves.
She also released a statement showing her support for Luqman. In this, she said: “Luqman Onikosi has been a valued member of the student and academic community at Sussex for the past 8 years… The Home Office’s decision to deport Luqman to a country which cannot provide him with the care he needs to stay alive is inhumane and cold-hearted. Luqman, myself and other Sussex students are calling for the Home Office and Theresa May to grant him leave to remain and stop all attempts to deport him. We’re calling on all Sussex students to stand together and demand that Luqman be allowed to stay in the country where he can be given the support that he needs.”
A petition has been circulating around academics and Students’ Union officers. Celebrated academic Noam Chomsky, amongst others, has already signed it.
Luqman would also like to thank MP Caroline Lucas for her help in his case.
Freya Marshall Payne