Universities of Sanctuary
Passed at National Conference 2020
According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “everyone has the right to education...and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit". The term refugee applies to any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. An asylum seeker is someone who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. In the UK, Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) is a 3-year renewable status that may be granted to individuals on the basis of an asylum claim, including many separated children from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and Iraq.
The ongoing refugee crisis has displaced many thousands of students worldwide and these same students have been deprived of the chance to pursue higher and further education courses in their native countries and they should not be presented from accessing these courses in the UK.
Several other UK universities including Queen’s University Belfast, have committed to funding scholarship places for refugees and Belfast Metropolitan College have gained their Colleges of Sanctuary award in the past year. At present, asylum seeker students are routinely charged overseas fees, yet their situation and needs are different to those of international students. A number of UK universities and colleges have amended their admissions policies to allow asylum seekers and/or students granted DLR as the result of an asylum application to pay ‘home’ tuition fees, or have waived fees entirely.
We believe there should be a continued fight for financial support for these affected students through lobbying the NI Executive to continue funding migrant scholarships in HE and FE institutions and allocate additional financial support for these students’ living costs including student accommodation.
NUS-USI members should be lobbying their institutions to make their institutions more accessible and supportive of asylum seeking and refugee students.
NUS-USI should encourage its members to achieve the University/Colleges of Sanctuary award, not as a tick box exercise but by creating long-term change.
Passed at National Conference 2022
Outline the issue facing students
A report released on 1st February 2022 by Amnesty International has analysed Israel’s intent to create and maintain a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians and examined its key components: territorial fragmentation; segregation and control; dispossession of land and property; and denial of economic and social rights. It has concluded that this system amounts to apartheid.
The student movement in Northern Ireland has an important history of standing up for international justice. The creation of NUS-USI itself is evidence of students leading the way and supporting each other in times of conflict, having been formed over 20 years before the Good Friday agreement and ensuring students were represented across the traditional divide.
Institutions across Northern Ireland are still invested in the arms trade and as students we have a responsibility to support the Palestinian people and campaign against this.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
As a student movement, it is vital that we stand up against international breaches of human rights. We believe that fundamental human rights and international law should be acknowledged and adhered to by states and businesses.
The student movement has often been at the forefront of important societal change, both locally, and internationally, including standing together against apartheid in South Africa, fighting for civil rights in the USA in the 1960’s and now organising collectively to tackle the growing climate crisis.
At a time when human rights movements are recognising the urgency of the moment and ramping up their support for the Palestinian cause, it is indefensible for governments and bodies of power and influence to dismiss their calls for justice and liberation. It is also unconscionable for any third level education institution to continue to invest in the arms trade and be complicit in the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people.
Apartheid has no place in our world and we must stand together against it.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
Just as individual sanctions against apartheid in South Africa led ultimately to its demise there, so individual and collective sanctions against the state of Israel will end apartheid and suffering in Palestine. Israel must dismantle this cruel system and the international community must pressure it to do so.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law, allowing the realisation of Palestinian rights. A truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid has rapidly emerged in response to this call ever since. It is vital that we support the asks of Palestinian civil society, and continue to endorse the global BDS movement against the state of Israel until it ends this occupation and complies with international law.