On February 20th at 11 a.m., 30 Bath and 20 Bath Spa students walked out of their lectures halls and assembled at a rally on their campus parade ‘in support of migrant and international student rights’. The walk-out is part of a nation-wide day of action called ‘One day without us’ to celebrate the contribution migrants make to society. Several other universities staged walk-outs, including SOAS, Warwick, UCL, Goldsmiths, LCC and others – and 300 people attended a demonstration in London.
Students speaking at the rallies described their situation as international students, which often, they commented, home students know little about. Their issues ranged from disproportionately higher fees and lower access to housing to 48 000 international students being ‘wrongly deported’ by Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary.
International student rights are everyone’s rights. They were the first ones to start paying fees in the eighties, and when came the time for home students to pay it was much easier to implement since the infrastructure and attitude necessary were already in place. When you fight for our rights, you fight for yours too.
Defending migrant rights, and especially their right to live here, get access to work and healthcare, is beneficial to us all. The politics of austerity and privatisation that are currently being rolled out by the state are all justified through anti-immigrant rhetoric. If we counter it the Tories will have no leg to stand on, and public institutions like the NHS will finally get the funding they need to run effectively’
The leaflets, videos and messaged distributed to promote the event argued that not only Trump’s election, but also Brexit had led to the intensification of anti-migrant bigotry and attacks, as well as ‘increasingly racist immigration policies being passed by the Conservative government’.
Yolanda Plunkett, a Civil and Architectural Engineering student at Bath University, said: ‘Trump and Brexit are two sides of the same coin. If you’re against Trump, then you have to be against the government’s anti-immigrant policies. Both are pushing the hateful idea that immigrants are the root of their problems in their country, when that simply is not the case – their problems are home-grown and within the system. They’re the problems immigrant scapegoating is hiding.’
The rally speakers listed immediate ways students could support migrants. These included pledging to make Bath University a sanctuary campus, and to join Movement for Justice, a migrant rights campaign group, at their demonstrations to Shut Down Yarl’s Wood. Daniel Murillo, chair of the International Students Association and one of the main leaders of the event, pushed for a continuation of actions on campus to pressure the university senior management and government:
‘International students are migrants too. We all hear the negative and toxic discourses of politicians against migrants every single day of our life. International students can’t help but feel criminalised, unwelcome, deindividualised, and sabotaged. This is why all British people and migrants should help us defend our rights every single day of our life. Let us unite against oppression!’