Less than a week after the shocking news that the government will try to deport up to 3,000 international students from London Metropolitan University, students and staff issued a powerful note of defiance. Around 500 from London Met and elsewhere held a militant protest outside the Home Office on Wednesday 5th September, launching the beginning of a campaign to overturn that disgraceful decision. Slogans called for the disbandment of the UK Border Authority (UKBA) and for Theresa May to resign.
The figure of 500 is especially impressive if we consider that the majority of those affected are not yet back in London for the new term. That means that as students return, the campaign will get bigger and more and more militant, as thousands of students, many not normally involved in politically activity, will throw themselves into militant action to defend their education and right to be on these shores. With just under 60 days before forceful expulsion, there is time to build up a fighting campaign not just in London Met but across the higher education sector.
NUS International Officer Daniel Stevens condemned the attack, which as he correctly said is part of a racist immigration policy. Daniel told Militant Student that “the Government are picking out an easy target in international students. We must get international students involved in a campaign against the immigration policy and use this issue to mobilise international students for the demonstration against education cuts on November 21st.”
That the government is pursuing a racist immigration policy to distract attention from its cuts and to divide the working class is a scandal which the entire student movement must fight. Militant Student calls for the NUS and local student unions to launch a solidarity campaign in defence of London Met international students. This attack is part of a general attack on all students and higher education.
Indeed we do not believe that this is solely about the government’s immigration policy. It is clear that the government has a broad policy of privatisation, the wholesale dismantling of the public sector, to go with its austerity agenda. It is a capitalist government forced by the crisis to loot the state on behalf of the capitalist class. As the cuts undermine public services, they will use their failings as an excuse for privatisation or even complete removal.
That is exactly what has happened to London Met, and in that respect this university only represents the beginning of the plan. London Met has struggled hugely with the cuts that have been asked of them; it is not a world famous university with wealthy and big business benefactors to rely on. Now the government is cynically using the fact that the university is struggling to undermine it. Ideally they would like to move to full-scale privatisation of what they see as an ‘non-prestigious’ university such as this, just as they have privatised state schools suffering from underinvestment.
Unison activists John Holroyd and Sandra Heidecker agreed with this analysis. They pointed out that the UKBA have made vague statements such as ‘61% of students have problems in their registration’, without offering any further explanation as to what this amounted to. In some cases it may just be misspelling of names. “They have refused to look at our evidence,” Sandra said. “We have the outrageous situation where 3rd Year students are not allowed to complete their course, even when they’re on a 1st, and where MA students only need to hand in their final dissertation, and yet the government is saying we cannot accept it! It costs £15,000 per year to study here – you do not pay that money just for a Visa.”
London Met’s international students are in a strong position. The collective punishment that this amounts to means that all 2,600 have the same interest, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They have invested thousands into their degrees and will not give that up lightly.
Therefore the NUS, the London Met student union, and local student unions, especially in London, must continue to call demonstrations as international students return. In the few weeks before term starts, preparations must be made to hit the fresher’s week hard. Posters and leaflets must be dished out in London Met and other universities condemning the attacks and calling for resistance to them.
Mass meetings should be called by the student unions, in which resolutions should be passed calling for mass walkouts of students against the deportation – at the last NUS conference a resolution was passed calling for student walkouts in the run up to the march on November 21st. The aim should be to organise a student strike which effectively shuts down London Met, with solidarity action at other universities.
Militant Student supporters have organised Marxist Societies around the country, and in London established societies will be meeting weekly in ULU, UCL, Queen Mary’s and UAL. The school student union in London is also lending its support. We will be organising a solidarity campaign at these universities and calling on their student unions to take a lead.
- No to deportation! End all immigration caps!
- No to privatisation of Higher Education
- No cuts!
- No fees! Reintroduce grants for all!
- Nationalise the banking system and the commanding heights of the economy to end capitalist anarchy in education and society. For a socialist plan of production to end youth unemployment