Migrants' Rights Network

University plays into ‘hostile environment’ by removing PhD student

The University of Sheffield has been accused of ‘colluding’ with the Home Office and its ‘hostile environment policy when it immediately removed a PhD student from his studies when he was detained by the Home Office. 

As The Independent reports, Iraqi doctoral candidate Ahmed Sedeeq was detained by visa and immigration officers during a routine reporting session at the Home Office on 18 December. The 30-year-old had initially come to the UK on a student visa, but following miscommunication with the Home Office – which had reportedly told him his visa was still valid – he ended up overstaying it without realising.

When Mr Sedeeq, who is in the final year of his doctorate, alerted the University of Sheffield about his detention at Morton Hall immigration centre, he was withdrawn from his PhD studies, despite having paid his tuition fees for this academic year. 

This sparked widespread outrage, including a petition and an open letter signed by over 300 academics. Sanaz Raji, one of the letter’s signatories (who has herself battled with her university in the past), is quoted by The Independent remarking:

‘The University of Sheffield cannot claim that they had no knowledge that Ahmed was an asylum seeker. They along with the Student Advice Centre at Sheffield Students’ Union knew that Ahmed had applied for asylum in 2014, yet he received little to no support for his dire situation. Yet, as a self-funded PhD student, Ahmed paid the University of Sheffield £57,000 in tuition fees. The university cannot market itself as a “global university” or even a “sanctuary university” for refugees when it charges outrageously high tuition fees for non-EU international students while colluding with the Home Office by subjecting them to the brutalities of the hostile environment policy’.

Mr Sedeeq said he felt ‘surrounded by uncertainty’ and daunted by the prospect of being detained at any time.

‘The amount of uncertainty that’s surrounding me, and the fact that even when they released me the Home Office told me I’m still subject to detention and deportation at any time, is daunting. It’s really awful knowing that. It’s paralysing my brain to get back into anything. Since I was detained I haven’t even looked at my thesis’.

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Fabien Cante

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