An open letter signed by 200 members of staff demanding the University contest the Home Office’s recent decision to deport ex-student Luqman Onikosi has received a reply from the Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing, who claimed the UK Visa and Immigration service does not negotiate with universities.
Farthing said: “In our experience the UKVI (UK Visa and Immigration Service) is not a body that enters into negotiations with universities on individual cases and, therefore, we are unable to influence any decision reached by the UKVI or the Home Office.”
According to Farthing, the University confronted the UKVI about its decision to revoke Luqman’s right to study when it was first announced on 10 July 2015; however, they “would not provide any further information about this case or enter into any dialogue with us.”
Luqman Onikosi’s fight against the Home Office’s decision has received national media coverage from the Guardian and the Independent, and student sympathisers besieged Bramber House’s conference room on the 9th March, where they camped out for 3 days before being forced out by bailiffs.
Onikosi has Hepatitis B and claims that deportation to his birth country of Nigeria would be a “death sentence”, because the required medical care is not available.
In response to Farthing’s statement, a representative of the #DontDeportLuqman campaign said the University “has shown the pressure it is under to act in accordance with the wishes of the Home Office, instead of with the wishes of the rest of the University community, which has spoken out decisively to support Luqman.”
They lament: “Universities are made to act as a proxy border guard, having to ensure the immigration status of their students, or be faced with losing their licence to take non-EU international students. The pressure universities are under has led to academics being asked both to monitor the attendance of non-EU international students, and potentially send personal e-mails with students to the UKVI.”
Indeed, the University has expressed anxiety about possible reproach from the Home Office in a statement to The Badger, claiming that making a statement in support of Luqman could jeopardise the “2000 students and 90 members of staff who require a special visa in order to study and work in the UK”.
A suspension from the register of Tier 2 and Tier 4 sponsors, a punishment given by the Home Office for non-compliance, would mean the University could no longer teach non-EU students or employ non-EU staff.
Freya Marshall Payne and Mark Tovey