By Maggie Sawant, Students' Union Correspondent
Two students have been suspended from studying at the University of Bristol by the Home Office.
The two students are studying at Bristol as ‘Sanctuary Scholars’ and are believed to have come from refugee backgrounds. Their scholarships waive tuition fees and provide a yearly £10,000 bursary towards living costs.
The Home Office ‘Study Ban’ prevents the students from sitting their exams and classifies such an action as a breach of their ‘bail conditions’. Breach of these conditions may result in a fine, or criminal proceedings, including up to six months imprisonment.
The University of Bristol’s Sanctuary Scholarships group have launched a crowdfunding campaign in an attempt to cover the legal costs of challenging the bans. They have so far raised over half of their £5000 target.
Two @bristoluni @sancscholsbris students - from refugee & asylum-seeking backgrounds - have been banned from study by the government JUST before exams. UoB is not allowed to pay legal costs so please donate what you can to help them: https://t.co/hq8OpqADa5 #HostileEnvironment— Natalie Jester (@NatalieJester) 22 May 2019
Sanctuary Scholarships were established to lessen the barriers asylum seekers and refugees face when trying to obtain a place at University. Asylum seekers must pay the same tuition fees as international students, at a cost of up to £38,000 per year, and are not usually eligible for student finance.
Amy-Leigh Hatton, the president of Student Action for Refugees (STAR), has branded the study ban as 'yet another damaging and isolating policy introduced by our government.'
She told Epigram that the society plan to mobilise against the ban: ‘STAR want people fleeing war, torture and persecution to be able to join us at university, and we will do all that we can to support our sanctuary scholars.'
‘Refugees and asylum seekers face many difficulties in the UK due to an increasingly hostile environment. We want our government to uphold Britain’s commitment to the UN Refugee Convention, and to the Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has a right to an education.
‘These students are determined, motivated and inspiring individuals who deserve to be at this university, and who should be taking their exams this week! We stand with our sanctuary scholars.’
Study bans are 1 of our students greatest fears having worked so hard to get here. Access to education should never be restricted. The #HostileEnvironment is not welcome in our Universities. We must collectively push back against these intrusions into our academic institutions ✊🏽— Sanctuary Scholarships - University of Bristol (@SancScholsBris) 20 May 2019
Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, has said that she hopes the situation can be resolved 'swiftly' and 'positively'.
She told Epigram that the University was currently offering the students pastoral support and acknowledged that 'this situation is very distressing for the students concerned.'
'Our pioneering Sanctuary Scholar scheme is designed to help asylum seekers and refugees to access university.
'Some asylum seekers are subject to 'immigration bail' while their applications are considered, as part of which the Home Office can grant or restrict the ability for them to study.
'Unfortunately, two of our Sanctuary Scholars have recently had study bans imposed. The University has to suspend them by law in this situation.'
Last month, STAR launched its ‘I’m Here’ video campaign, made in collaboration with the University of Bristol Television Society and the Students’ Union. The video campaign aims to raise awareness of the Sanctuary Scholars within the University community and tells of the experiences of three Sanctuary Scholars, in their own words and voices.
Featured image: Crowdfunder / Bristol Sanctuary Scholars
What do you think of the study ban? Let us know below!