6. HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT
6.1 Compensating the material costs of anti-immigrant policies
The Hostile Environment is not happening somewhere else. It is happening in our classrooms, offices, and research events. The government’s Prevent strategy and immigration controls are conspiring to turn professional services staff and educators into de facto police officers and border guards. BME students and staff are all becoming targets, even as the whole of our immigrant community experiences xenophobia in the wake of Brexit. Colleges and universities cannot claim that they are ‘international’ when they fail to challenge, and often aggressively over-enforce, the worst tendencies of the Home Office. Meanwhile, fees for work visas have increased by 500% in the last decade, and staff generally have to bear the costs of visas for themselves and their families, with no help from their employers, on top of the international health surcharge for access to the NHS. As a union, we must insist in our national pay claims that all employers reimburse international staff for these unfair fees until such time as they are abolished.
6.2 Campaigning against surveillance and the security state
The Hostile Environment also affects our research. Colleagues from overseas are refused visas to attend conferences and project meetings in the UK. And all non-EU staff, as well as students, are subject to intrusive ‘right to work’ checks and other measures as part of the surveillance that comes with the Hostile Environment. The 180-day rule prevents many non-EU lecturers from conducting in-depth research abroad for fear of violating the requirements of their visa. Academics can be forced to leave the country if they spend too much time overseas.
Powerful staff-led campaigns like International and Broke and Unis Resist Border Controls have laboured too long without official support. As General Secretary of UCU, I will create a dedicated task group for surveillance and security issues in colleges and universities. This is a growing scandal throughout our education sector, and whatever happens in the wake of Brexit, it will not simply go away.