Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goldsmiths Students Not Suspects

Students and staff at Goldsmiths in New Cross have been mounting a vigorous campaign against the new 'points based' system for immigration.

They say that the 'rules represent a serious threat to campus democracy and freedom of speech. They require non-EU students and staff to have biometric ID cards, involve demands on the financial background of applicants and mean that staff are obliged to report students to the UK Border Agency when they have not attended regularly'.

The Students not Suspects campaign has highlighted a number of cases where this bureaucratic nightmare has resulted in serious disruption to students' lives. The campaing has held a number of big meetings at the college and has produced some snazzy t-shirts for both students and staff. The staff version, below, states 'we are not border agents' - since the rules do in effect ask college staff to become an extension of the border police.

The latest initiative is a petition to Pat Loughrey, the new Warden of Goldsmiths, calling on the college managment to support the campaign:

'I am writing to express my grave concerns with the implementation of the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) Points Based System of Immigration (PBSI) at Goldsmiths. By imposing the UKBA's agenda of national security and border control on universities, PBSI has effectively turned students into suspects and staff into border agents. These xenophobic and reactionary tendencies run counter to the openness and free exchange of ideas necessary for research, teaching, and learning to occur.

Furthermore, the UKBA has transferred the financial and administrative burden of PBSI, which is considerable, onto individual staff and students, resulting in elevated workloads and stress. By increasing the cost and complexity of the visa application process, the UKBA has rendered universities less accessible and less welcoming to non-EU nationals, thus potentially damaging the reputation of higher education in the UK. The result will be less cultural and social diversity in higher education, to the detriment of Goldsmiths and the sector overall'.

You can read the full petition here - signatures are being collected until May 25th.

Given that this is an area with a high migrant population, it would be good too to link with non-students in the area who are also at the receiving end of Border Agency attention. For instance, in October 2009, the Bromley and Lewisham local immigration team raided homes across the area, detaining a Bolivian man in New Cross Road, two Turkish men in Pomeroy Street, a Nigerain woman in Catford and a Brazilian man in Forest Hill (Border Agency press release, 29 Oct. 2009; see also this raid in February 2009).

The Border Agency are sometimes to be seen out on force on New Cross Road, mounting joint operations with the Transport Police. The deal seems to be that if someone is caught with the wrong ticket or not enough money on their Oyster card they can then be questioned by the Border Agency and ultimately detained. A similar proposal in Arizona has quite rightly been criticised as outrageous, but nobody much seems to notice that it is already happening here. Perhaps next time this happens in New Cross, students and others should demonstrate against it.


somewhere in Tooting said...

'There is no ground for complacency about British society having an 'essentially tolerant' character; we are no more exempt from the risks of political and ideological change than any other society.'

Transpontine said...

Indeed, I think it was Primo Levi who said that the trains are always in the station (the trains to the gas chambers that is). Not that we should scream that we are living in a fascist society everytime the state does something nasty, but we should act with the notion in our mind that fascism - or some other form of violent racialized nationalism - is a permanently possibility in any society.

eusebiovic said...

I just happen to think that the - clock is being turned back 150 years to the exact point before socialism began...We had plan A in the Georgian/Victorian era, ie: aggressive, completely unregulated free market economics - When this became unsustainable -

Plan B evolved. ie: Social Responsibility and Idealism - The anonymous bourgeoise supremacy never forgave the people who were responsible for popularising this path and have spent their whole time ever since reversing this process - by any means necessary.

We should be following a Plan C considering everything we have learnt so far but alas we are going back to Plan A...and it's probably going to be much worse than the original because this time - Everything will be nailed down tightly...


I drink my tea ;-)

Anonymous said...

Please can I use the 'Students Not Suspects' t-shirt image contained in this blogpost in a blogpost I am writing about the Students Not Suspects campaign? The blogpost will appear on