Tuesday 17th November saw students walk out of university classes to show support for international students and migrants during the Day of Solidarity.
A spokesperson for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said: “The day, called under the banner ‘International Students’ Campaign Day of Solidarity’ aims to encourage all students to stand in solidarity with migrants and tackle anti-migrant rhetoric and policies in the UK. Students will be walking out of classes and holding rallies, demonstrations and stunts in support of this”.
The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) organised the walkout from 08:00, urging students to walk out of classes in a show of support for international students.
Mostafa Rajaai, NUS International Students’ Officer, said: “We want to send a clear message to the government that students in this country overwhelmingly reject the attitude and direction that the UK has adopted regarding immigration. The failure to respond adequately to the refugee crisis, the mistreatment of international students and the constant attacks on migrants’ rights are all part of the wider anti-migrant sentiment which is on the rise in the UK political establishment”.
Under policies implemented by the current government, post-study work visas were scrapped in 2012, removing the right of international students to gain work experience after their studies. In addition, international students are now subject to charges for NHS treatment, biometric identity cards and landlord immigration checks.
Yinbo Yu, UUEAS’s Activities and Opportunities Officer said “International students make up nearly 30% of the student population at UEA, and we’ve really had enough. That is why we organised the Solidarity Day, supported by NUS. We want to show this government that we should work in unity regardless of our race, religion and nationality to end atrocities together, instead of demonising migrants”.
He added that “The anti-immigration policies of the government have become intolerable, The Prevent initiative will only isolate and marginalise Muslim students, and further policies have been passed over the past few years which work in direct opposition to the contribution that international students make, to both the university and the local community”.
“We will be looking to continue our work to support international students and would encourage more students to get involved and help us support those affected”.
In July, immigration minister James Brokenshire also announced the government will tighten immigration rules for non-EU students in higher education, adding to rules exposed in a leaked email from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, that international students would need more financial saving sthan their British counterparts upon arrival to the UK.
The reaction on campus to the walkout was mixed, however, with many students, despite being in favour of the union’s support of solidarity with both migrants and international students – wondering whether not attending lectures was the best way to address concerns.