BM85: Ending the UK’s Hostile Environment

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ESU unequivocally condemns the UK government’s “hostile environment” policies which aim to make living as a migrant in the UK, including as an international student, as unpleasant as possible in order to discourage migration.

These policies include:

  • restrictions on the number of hours international students are allowed to work alongside their studies whilst on a student visa, capping this at 20 hours per week during term-time, despite many students needing to work more hours than this to afford to pay the bills;
  • requirements not faced by home students to sign in to every class for attendance monitoring purposes, creating a power imbalance between different students and making international students feel untrusted and perpetually monitored;
  • strict restrictions on when international students are allowed to enter the country, and when they must leave again, meaning many international students will miss the first classes of term due to visa delays, or will find it much harder to find suitable housing before the start of term;
  • banning international postgraduate students from being allowed to bring their families with them to study, a new policy coming into place in January 2024;
  • the ineligibility of international students for any forms of financial support or assistance including most hardship funds;
  • the requirement by many UK landlords for tenants seeking housing to provide a UK-based guarantor, blocking many international students and other migrants from being able to rent housing.

ESU notes that these policies are not only unfair and demeaning, but that international students are at an increased risk of student poverty, partly as a consequence of these policies. Research by NUS Scotland in 2022 found that 21% of international students in Scotland have experienced homelessness at some point in their studies, a rate almost double that of home students.

ESU also notes that the way in which these policies are enforced is disproportionate and unnecessarily cruel. Muhammad Rauf Waris, an international student at the University of Stirling in Scotland, was arrested and detained for more than two months after being suspected of having worked more than 20 hours in a single week. He described his detention as “mental torture”, and was unable to sleep or eat due to the ordeal. He was released on bail in August 2023, but is now unable to work and has not been provided with financial support. His ordeal continues and is a horrific example of the cruelty of the UK government towards international students.

ESU calls for an end to the UK government’s hostile environment policies, and for HEIs to improve pastoral, welfare and financial support for international students.

Proposers: NUS UK



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