The UK’s strict and racist immigration and asylum structures have struck once again with the news that NUS Scotland’s newly-elected Refugee and Asylum Officer Lord Elias Mensah Apetsi has been detained, refused his medication while in detention, and is facing deportation today. His detention came about simply due to human error – a routine Leave to Remain application was not submitted by his lawyer on time – and because of this, the Masters student at the University of Strathclyde is facing imminent deportation to Ghana, meaning separation from his children and the life he has built in the UK over the past nine years.
Unfortunately, this inhumane detention and deportation of students by the UK Home Office is not new: just last summer there was the case of City of Glasgow College student Majid Ali, who was deported to Pakistan despite being in serious danger there. There is also the ongoing case of Sussex student Luqman Onikosi, whose application for Leave to Remain was rejected despite the need to access medical treatment for a liver condition which is not available in Nigeria. There are many others seeking asylum and refuge in the UK every year who face rejection and are potentially sent to their deaths, for example in the case of Aderonke Apata last year, who despite experiencing persecution in Nigeria for her sexuality, was not deemed “gay enough” by the Home Office. It is unacceptable and an affront to basic human rights that people are removed from their communities and means of survival in the UK like this.
Apetsi’s case is a matter of paperwork and human error, and campaigners under the #savelord banner have been pushing MPs, MSPs and the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire over the past weekend to get the Home Office to reconsider their decision, especially over fears for the safety of him and his family. Those campaigning for Lord’s right to remain in the UK have correctly argued that his imminent deportation contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a family life, as well as the rights of his children according to several articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nine years of living in the UK, studying, working intensely hard to support other students, and raising a family should more than justify the fact that Apetsi should not be deported, although it should not even be necessary to prove your “worth” in this way to be considered eligible to stay in the place you call home. This whole culture, that you are only worthy of safety, refuge and stability based on your papers and your “legality”, your ability to follow some arbitrary guidelines set down within certain borders, and your ability to prove your worth to a country – it needs to stop.
The UK’s inhumane and indeed racist immigration laws and structures can be seen in operation not only here, but in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood where violence is enacted especially against women of colour, and in cases like the removal of the post-study work visa, all of which hits people from outside the EU and people of colour hardest. In seeking to protect its borders, which are, much like the concept of a nation, socially arbitrary if geographically not, the UK enacts violence daily against people whose only crime, apparently, was trying to live and work here safely. Lord’s case is not isolated, and speaks volumes about the absolutely heinous effect of the UK’s underlyingly racist and xenophobic immigration structures on innocent people. It is time for this unjustifiable and inhumane culture of detention and deportation to end.
Get involved in the fight to #savelord: tweet and email MPs, MSPs and the Immigration Minister, spread the word amongst those you know, and keep an eye out on social media for further actions and demonstrations following yesterdays’s in Edinburgh and London. @NUSScotland on Twitter is a very useful source for keeping up-to-date with the situation.