Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC) is a national campaign made up of British, EU, non-EU, migrant students, lecturers, & university workers opposed to Home Office surveillance, the Hostile Environment, and border controls on UK campuses. URBC started on the 5th March 2016 at SOAS, called by the Justice4Sanaz campaign to,

create meaningful and sustainable discussion and action with other anti-racist, migrant rights grassroots campaigners and groups around the situation concerning non-EU international students, academics, and university workers within the neoliberal university system.”

After this meeting, URBC was established and a statement was written, endorsed by over fifty academics, activists and students that demanded the,

“fundamental end to UKVI and PREVENT surveillance and intimidation of non-EU international students, scholars and university workers. We want to see universities and unions take a strong stand against such policies and to cease using these racist and xenophobic measures to disenfranchise and marginalize non-EU international students, scholars, and university workers. We want to see provisions in place for non-EU internationals to be able to seek recourse against their higher education institutions without it affecting their visa-status and/or having their precarious immigration status repeatedly threatened.  We call on British students, lecturers and university workers to not collude or be complicit with the border controls culture on university campuses.”

In 2017 we established a manifesto that listed our principles and demands. URBC advocates for the following:

  1. Free education
  2. Free movement
  3. All migrants are matter- not just those who are white and/or middle class.
  4. We demand an end to the migrant NHS surcharge.
  5. We demand an end to the surveillance of students. This includes UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) monitoring of the attendance of migrant students and migrants university staff members. We also demand an end to the Prevent strategy.
  6. If a migrant student or university staff member encounters immigration problems, we demand that Student Unions and the university provide pastoral care and legal support in resisting the detention and deportation of migrant students and staff.
  7. Migrant students and university staff should be able to take legal recourse against their institutions without their precarious immigration status being used against them in order to silence them from speaking and taking action against any wrongdoings by their institution.
  8. We demand that universities stop working with and/or investing in the arms trade, fossil fuels, and the prison and border industries that are responsible for creating war, environmental devastation, and carceral violence that affects in particular working class Black and people of colour.

Workshops & Educational Outreach

For over three years, URBC has conducted resistance workshops at universities, DIY spaces and migrant-rights events around the UK that help students, staff and migrant rights activists understand how the hostile environment policy and border controls operates inside higher education. These workshops also provided ways of giving practical solidarity and resistance on the ground to protect migrants students, academic staff and university workers.  To illustrate,  URBC conducted a very successful workshop
co-hosted by the Break//Line Residency at UCL in November 2018 that was called after we sounded the alarm this past July of an email circulated within UCL stipulating that lecturers who failed to carry out immigration spot-checks on Tier 4 students “may be liable to a £20,000 personal fine per case”. As a result of our activism, UCL officials retracted and apologised to staff and students for the email circulated. URBC also publishes zines that discuss aspects of the hostile environment policy within higher education.

URBC has both hosted &  co-hosted national and regional conferences on resisting the hostile environment policy and other aspects of UK’s xeno-racist immigration laws.  In October 2017 we  co-hosted the 2-day Festival of Resisting Borders: Fighting Hostile Environment in the University & Beyond that was held at SOAS, University of London along with the evening panel discussion, No Borders! No White Supremacy! that concluded the last day of the Festival of Resisting Borders. We also co-hosted the Northern Festival of Resisting Borders & Prisons in Manchester that took place on May 2018. URBC worked with prison abolition groups and labour rights groups to create the linkages that allow us to flesh out further how the carceral state violence informs border violence, as evident in the horrible treatment of foreigners who have been incarcerated that are now finding themselves stripped of their citizenship and forced on to secret deportation flights.  

Casework support

URBC has also been instrumental in stopping the deportation and continued detention of international students, as seen in the case of Shiromini Satkunarajah and Ahmed Sedeeq. Thanks to our efforts, both Shiromini was granted leave to remain, and Ahmed has been  granted humanitarian protection for five years


In June 2018, URBC launched a survey study to collect data on how the hostile environment policy is exercised within all higher education institutions in the UK. We received 184 responses to our survey. The findings from this study was published in The Guardian in November 2019. During the COVID-19 lockdown, we conducted a joint study with the Migrants’ Rights Network on the effects of UK’s lockdown policy on Tier 4 international students. The results of this study can be found here. Currently, URBC members are analysing data from our COVID-19 Technology and Monitoring study that concluded on the 24th July 2020. The findings of this study will be released before the end of October 2020. 

Protests & Direct Action

Organising demonstrations against the hostile environment policy and borders is also an important part of our work. On the 18 December 2018, we helped organise protests against the conviction of the ‘Stansted 15’ and wider hostile environment policies. There were events in 18 cities across the UK and in Ireland. We also co-organised a Hunger For Freedom Solidarity Demo at Yarl’s Wood on the 30th June 2018 that was attended by migrant rights activists from Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester, and Nottingham.

Interested in joining URBC? Email us at: UnisResistBorderControls[AT]gmail[DOT]com