Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
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Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018
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#DontDeportLuqman is about Luqman and so much more

As a supporter of the #DontDeportLuqman campaign, when I asked what to write for this article about the campaign Luqman replied “What do you want to write about – justifying why my life matters?” And this struck a chord with me. This campaign is about saving the life of a student, and bizarrely enough, our state does not see his case as ‘exceptional’. The actions of Theresa May and the Home Office suggest that, for them, his life does not matter.

Luqman Onikosi, a Sussex Masters student suffers from Hepatis B which requires much medical attention, which he fears is unavailable in Nigeria, as his two brothers have also died from the same illness in the country. Luqman fears deportation to Nigeria is likely to be a death sentence to him, yet the Home Office have rejected his demand for leave to remain in the UK on medical grounds.  On receiving this news the University of Sussex has withdrawn his Masters, even though he has submitted all the work required.

As deportation would likely be a death sentence for Luqman, this article is not going to argue why we should campaign against the deportation of Luqman; there is no debate, his life does matter. The stakes are so high, and as such support, fundraising for legal fees and publicity is needed. Demonstrations, fundraiser lunches, occupations and further actions are all justified to demand our University support Luqman.

Instead, I want to draw attention to the wider aspect of this campaign. This campaign exists because universities have seemingly become complicit with the Home Office, acting as border guards deciding who can stay and leave our country. Also, this campaign exists because universities and student unions do not listen to and successfully represent international students, meaning that grassroots campaigns such as this are almost fighting against the institutions that should be there to help and represent them.

This campaign is fighting the ‘coloniality’ that exists within the British state, its universities and Student Unions. Coloniality refers to link between the global colonial past of racism and the way in which some of these ideas still ‘invisibly’ contribute to todays’ systems of power and representation.  Other examples of this are the lack of non-white representation in Parliament and the fact that black people are a lot more to stopped and searched “randomly” by the police. And if you think this is just a new buzzword, keep reading.

As a result of our Universities complicity with the Home Office, one of the demands of this campaign is for the University of Sussex to “end collaboration with the Home Office, including legally and politically challenging Prevent and International Student Licensing”. We want the university to question the Prevent programme and condemn it as staff at Warwick University and the National Union of Teachers have recently done, along with Sussex’s student union.

The current government’s Prevent agenda can be seen as inciting coloniality. This programme unfortunately only leads to further generalisations about students, with teachers being confused as to whom to mark out as at risk of radicalisation. Both students and teachers claim that this programme undermines freedom of expression and leads to unfair targeting of non-white students.

Alongside supporting Prevent, our university still has colonial elements embedded in its education system. Heeding calls from ‘I, too am Sussex’ and ‘Sussex- Decolonizing Education’ the #DontDeportLuqman seeks to decolonise our University. This means that our teachers, university staff and readings resources should become less Eurocentric and move towards better representing the diversity of knowledge and understanding in our world.

This is why this campaign demands for ‘an immediate review of the curriculum with the Sussex School of Global Studies initiative; Decolonizing Education: Towards Academic Freedom In Pluriversality, DETAFIP’.

Non-EU international students also pay up to twice as much as Home and EU students, yet do not receive any better service; in fact they receive inadequate academic and pastoral support compared to other students. For example, only 42% of international students receive a First or 2:1 in their degree compared to 80% for Home and EU students.

The University and the Students’ Union have failed to adequately address these issues, in part because the Students’ Union fails to represent international students adequately. This can be seen on international students’ lack of engagement with the Students’ Union and the under-supported, voluntary part-time international student representative within the Students’ Union.

As has been shown above, this campaign goes beyond the bounds of Luqman’s individual case. He is threatened with deportation in part due to the UK government’s anti-immigrant ideology and our Universities complicity in supporting it.

This is why the campaign must continue; our University and Students’ Union should support international students better and ensure that our campus really does have a global outlook, reflected in its curriculum and staff, rather than just increasing international student numbers for profit.

This articles hopes to have made clearer the all-encompassing importance of this campaign, for Luqman, International students and all other students, who should not accept the coloniality of their University and Students’ Union and its complicity with a xenophobic state.

To see the full list of the campaigns’ demand, and the University’s initial concession go here – http://thebadgeronline.com/live-report-from-the-bramber-house-occupation/

Annie Pickering

Image credit: Luqman Onikosi

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