How we can support our fellow students from forced migrant backgrounds

I was moved to learn about all the hostile UK government laws currently making it so hard for refugees to find protection and make a home here.


This article is written by Sam White, an OU Physics student, who says not enough is being done to help forced migrants find sanctuary, settle in the UK, and achieve their goals. 

On International Migrants Day 18 December 2021, he is standing with his fellow students to work towards improving access and support for forced migrants at the OU. 

In this blog, Sam argues that we need more opportunities and less bureaucracy for migrants.

A photograph of Sam White.Sam White

Hey there, hope everyone’s keeping warm and cosy this time of year. I know I’ve certainly got my winter warmers on! My name’s Sam, by the way, and I’m studying for a BSc Physics degree with the OU. And today we’re celebrating International Migrant’s Day. I became really interested in education opportunities for migrants in the UK after joining the OSTARS Club.

Here’s our Facebook page which we set up to inspire each other and learn more about refugee and asylum seeking. 

I was moved to learn about all the hostile UK government laws currently making it so hard for refugees to find protection and make a home here. And I learnt about the barriers refugee students face due to language problems, and not being given enough time to adjust to a new culture or to access education. 

Through my own reading in the media and connecting with this group I realised that not enough is being done to help forced migrants who have lost their homes, to find sanctuary and settle in the UK and achieve their goals. So that’s why I’m supporting the OU’s application to become a University of Sanctuary and to improve access to HE for our fellow students who are forced migrants.

As an OU student, I’d also love to get involved in volunteering and helping people with speaking/writing in English. I could use the skills I’m learning in my academic writing to assist other students with speaking and writing English. And I’d like to raise awareness of and learn more about the complex and often hostile migration laws that hold back young people and academics who’ve fled persecution.

We need more opportunities and less bureaucracy for forced migrants.

It’s an important time to support our fellow students from forced migrant backgrounds. 

The Bill for Immigration and Borders was debated and passed in the House of Commons on 8/12/21 and now it is going to the House of Lords (UK Government, 2021). The Home Office’s goal under Priti Patel is to reduce human trafficking and reform our asylum system – to end deaths during Channel Crossings. But the organization Amnesty International UK (2021) have stated that the Bill will in fact have the opposite effect, adding further obstacles to migrants settling and causing more illegal trafficking. Human Rights activists claim that the Bill breaches international law as it permits ‘push backs’ – sending asylum seekers back to France, for example. But the asylum system in Europe is broken and it is important to remember that most asylum seekers are in Turkey and Greece, so some countries are bearing a disproportionate burden. 

If every country took its fair share of responsibility and offers sanctuary to those fleeing countries like Syria and Afghanistan, there would be no problem. But there doesn’t seem to be the political will to accept humanitarian solutions. Which is why right now initiatives like the ‘Universities of Sanctuary’ (2021) are vital. This initiative is to provide a safe sanctuary for people fleeing persecution, which the OU have applied to join.

I’d like to encourage other OU students and staff new to the subject like me, to get involved and support the University of Sanctuary initiative. 

The OSTARS Club Teams Meetings, hosted by the OU Students Association, are very friendly, and a great way to learn about what we can do to help. The last one was on OU Student Action for Refugees (2021) co-presented by OSTAR students Ruth Hennell, Allan Roy and OU tutor Suki Haider. It was brilliant! I learned so much and met some great people.

There’s a lot of different ways anyone can join in. With the confusion over the upcoming Bill, now’s especially the time to get involved with volunteering and raising awareness over the laws covering our fellow students, and the wider migrant population.

Thanks very much for reading and hope everyone is enjoying their studies, but let’s help make a positive change this International Migrant’s Day. 

References

UK Government (2021) Nationality and Borders Bill. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/the-nationality-and-borders-bill (Accessed: 08/12/2021).

Amnesty International UK (2021) Nationality & Borders Bill: the truth behind the claims. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/nationality-borders-bill-truth-behind-claims (Accessed: 08/12/2021).

Universities of Sanctuary (2021) Home | Universities of Sanctuary. Available at: https://universities.cityofsanctuary.org (Accessed: 08/12/2021).

OU Community (2021) OU Student Action for Refugees (OSTAR) event 19th Nov 2021. Available at: https://community.open.ac.uk/friday19 (Accessed: 08/12/2021).

Article written by Sam White. 


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Lara Munday

Lara is a member of the OU Students Association staff team.

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