Photos by Kunal Patel
Seventy protesters joined the SU in protesting against government bill that could threaten asylum seekers and ethnic minority students.
Oxford students yesterday attended a protest against the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill. The protest, supported and organised by Oxford SU, was held from 2pm on the steps outside the Clarendon Building, and at its peak was attended by approximately 70 people from various organisations.
The protest comes as the House of Lords prepares to examine the Bill during its Committee Stage, prior to its Third Reading. The Bill gives the government exceptional powers to remove an individual’s citizenship without informing them, so long as they have, or are eligible for citizenship elsewhere. The Bill also has implications for refugees and asylum seekers, empowering the government to turn back boats at sea and send asylum seekers to third countries for offshore asylum processing, as well as further criminalising attempts to enter the UK irregularly.
Student groups attending the protest included SolidariTee, Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, Oxford University Labour Club, the SU’s Campaign for Racial Equality and Awareness and the SU’s Class Act. They were joined by wider organisations and trade unions including UNITE, UNISON, Reading Trade Union Council, Oxford Anti-fascists, Oxford Marxists, Antihomophobe Action and Amnesty International, as well as Imogen Thomas, Labour councillor for Holywell Ward.
Speakers called attention to the disproportionate impact that the Bill will have on people of colour, who are more likely than white British citizens to be eligible for citizenship elsewhere.
The SU’s VP Academic and Access Sabbatical Officer opened the protest by highlighting the impact the bill may have on students of colour, saying ‘the Bill confirms what many students of colour have always felt and suspected, that we are second class citizens’. According to some analyses, the Bill would leave two in five people from ethnic minority backgrounds vulnerable to the loss of their citizenship.
Other student activists who spoke at the event focussed on the impact that the Bill will have on refugees, with one speaker declaring that the ‘only refugee crisis in the UK is the revulsion with which this government views those at their most desperate’. Speakers from Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, Oxford Marxists and UNITE also called attention to Britain’s role in causing mass displacement as a consequence of its role in colonialism, imperialism, and climate change, accusing the government of cruelty and hypocrisy.
Chants led by speakers and members of the crowd included ‘‘One Struggle One Fight! Migrant Justice Migrant Rights!’ and ‘Priti Patel you’re no fun. You’d deport your own mum!’ Protesters branded banners with slogans such as ‘Boris is racist. Google it’ and ‘Oxford says scrap borders’.
In a comment to The Blue, the SU President said ‘it was incredible to see the turnout at the protest today and hear the great speeches from fellow students and community members. The Nationality and Borders Bill threatens the safety of asylum seekers and the recognition of people’s right to their citizenship. Specifically, the creation of a ‘temporary protection’ status for refugees will negatively impact the welfare of young people with its uncertainty and would restrict the refugee students’ access to higher education, actively limiting their opportunities. It’s therefore extremely important we stand with those most affected in our country and in our university, and I’d like to once again thank everyone for coming today.’