In July, Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC) with the help of Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) launched two letters concerning the COVID-19 situation for Tier 4 international students. The two letters called for an end to no recourse to public funds (NRPF) and a tuition fee amnesty for Tier 4 students.
Both letter received over 500 signatures from university students, university lecturers, trade union representatives, and migrant rights organisations.
On Monday 10 August 2020, URBC and MRN sent both these letters to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Michelle Donelan, Minster of the State of Universities, Emma Hardy, Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities, Universities UK and Vice Chancellors from universities were URBC provided over £6,000 in mutual aid financial grants to Tier 4 international students left destitute during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Also yesterday, URBC and MRN have launched findings from a preliminary study we did on the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on Tier 4 international students. Our results found that 56% of Tier 4 international students indicate that as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown they are either destitute or at risk of being destitute.
For this reason, we are demanding an end to NRPF and a tuition fee amnesty for Tier 4 international students affected because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East has already come out in support with our campaign with MRN to end NRPF for Tier 4 students, stating:
“I want to express my solidarity for the affected Tier 4 students who are being unfairly punished due to their immigration status. At no time should this be happening, but it is particularly cruel during a global pandemic. I hope that the entire policy of No Recourse to Public Funds is reassessed in light of COVID-19”.
URBC and MRN have also received support online from Kate Osamor, MP for Edmonton and Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham to end NRPF for Tier 4 students.
Not only is URBC is demanding an end to NRPF for Tier 4 students and all other migrants, but also we send a second letter that received 530 signatures to Michelle Donelan, Minster of State for Universities, Emma Hardy, Shadow FE & Universities Minister, Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Office for Students, along with Vice Chancellors at BPP University, Coventry University, De Montfort University, Edinburgh Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kingston University, Northumbria University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Bedfordshire, University of Central Lancashire, University of East London, University of Edinburgh, University of Hertfordshire, University of Portsmouth, University of Sussex, and University of Ulster demanding a tuition fee amnesty for Tier 4 students affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
In this joint letter with the MRN, we explained that Tier 4 students whom URBC are supporting have been told by their respective universities that if they do not pay the remainder of their tuition fees, they could be suspended from their studies. These students cannot pay the remainder of their university tuition fees for the same reason they cannot afford food: because their families have been in lockdown in their respective countries, unable to work and send them money. Since their universities are also their visa sponsors, being suspended would undoubtedly put Tier 4 students in jeopardy of becoming undocumented.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, URBC has shared information sent to us by Tier 4 international students who are being told that they will be withdrawn off their courses and face problems with the visa status for being unable to pay the remainder of their tuition fees their university. These screenshots of emails sent to Tier 4 international students who are unable to pay their tuition fees are just two examples of many that we have come across in the past four months.
For this reason, URBC and MRN believe that we need to urge universities and government to institute a tuition fee amnesty at this critical time to ensure that no Tier 4 international student is suddenly forced off their course and into an immigration situation because they are unable to pay their tuition fees because of the current global pandemic.
Watch this space to learn what response URBC receives from these these two letters and what will happen next with the campaign to end NRPF and a tuition fee amnesty for Tier 4 international students.