Over 200 people came to a meeting on Monday to campaign against the government’s attacks on one of the last and most important rights possessed by asylum seekers – the right to free English classes (Esol) and further education courses.
Those attending included union members, refugee campaigners and members of children’s organisations.
From August this year, rule changes by the Learning and Skills Council will mean Esol courses for asylum seekers over 18 will no longer be free. Further education courses will become unaffordable if asylum seekers are designated as overseas students.
While the government is quick to condemn minorities for a supposed failure at social integration, it is introducing measures that will set back integration and further marginalise people who are often vulnerable.
Stopping adult asylum seekers from learning English will prevent many from coping with the demands of everyday life in a complex and unfamiliar society.
Courses also fulfil a vital social function. They enable asylum seekers to meet, gain the support of others in the same circumstances and mix with local students from the communities where colleges are located.
Colleges also provide advice services that asylum seeker students often rely on heavily.
But it is not only asylum seeker students who will be the losers – we all will be as education will be less diverse if refugees are excluded.
There will be a lobby against the cuts on 28 February, called by the UCU union.