Students in Sussex University were set to protest tonight, Thursday, against the deportation of student Luqman Onikosi. Some 17 students occupied a university building on Wednesday night.
The Home Office wants to deport Luqman to Nigeria—where he would not have the support he needs to survive chronic liver disease Hepatitis B.
“It’s a matter of life and death for me,” Luqman told Socialist Worker. His two brothers have already died from the condition in Nigeria.
“I’m clinging to a chance of life they didn’t have—and that’s a guilt I’ll have to live with all my life,” he said.
Luqman first came to Britain to study in Sussex in 2007. His illness caused severe disruption to his studies. And for several years he has been fighting for the right to stay in Britain.
The Home Office rejected his leave to remain on medical grounds last month—and has also forced the university to cut him off from continuing his studies there.
Luqman campaigned for education rights in Nigeria and has stayed active in Sussex.
He is particularly angry about the situation for non-European Union international students, who pay higher fees but are vulnerable to anti-immigration laws.
“We pay through the nose, but then we don’t even the rights of a cash-cow,” he said. “This isn’t just about me—I want to use the campaign as a platform for others too.”
He argues neoliberal changes to the university system have weakened solidarity—and hopes to be part of a movement that can reverse this.
“Academics should stand with their students, but neoliberalism has made the idea that academics can speak out conditional upon their contracts,” he said.
“Student unions now have to be run like charities. Students weren’t allowed to go to the Calais refugee camp because the CEO said so. But what does a union need with a CEO?”
Support for Luqman has grown initially through word of mouth after students were horrified to hear of his ordeal.
Now more than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on the university to support him. And the occupation was launched out of a “Home Office off campus” protest.
Luqman said, “The state wants to take us on as individuals. We need collective action.”