The conference centre of Bramber House at the University of Sussex has been occupied by students demanding that a Sussex postgraduate student be allowed to remain in the UK.
Luqman Onikosi faces deportation back to Nigeria, despite being diagnosed with the chronic liver condition Hepatitis B while studying at Sussex. His two brothers both died in Nigeria from complications caused by the same illness, and Onikosi fears that he may face the same fate if the Home Office deport him from Britain.
Following a rally in Library Square, the protesters marched through campus, stormed the building, and scuffled with security to occupy the centre based on the third floor. It is estimated that as many as 50 students may be occupying the space, although one security officer said that the figure was closer to 20.
The occupiers have condemned the University’s management for kicking Onikosi off of his course and for being ‘complicit in the Home Office’s attempt to deport Luqman Onikosi’, setting off smoke canisters and chanting ‘Who’s campus? Our campus!’ and ‘No borders, no nations, stop deportations!’
From the ground, Mr Onikosi praised the occupiers and called for a ‘national occupation’ in protest of the Home Office’s attempts to deport him and the allegedly aggressive stance taken by the Government against migrants.
The student occupiers have spent the night in the conference centre and have also arranged a further demonstration for tomorrow afternoon (Thursday 10th) in Library Square to support the occupation.
In a statement, the occupiers have demanded that the University ‘award Luqman his MA and publicly state their opposition to his deportation [and] ‘end collaboration with the Home Office, including legally and politically challenging Prevent’.
They added: ‘We intend to exert maximum financial leverage against the university by denying them access to their conference centre. It’s not enough for managers to claim they’re ‘just doing their job’ when the life of one of our community is at stake.’
In response, a spokesperson for the University of Sussex told the Independent: “We understand the group of students are supporters of Mr Onikosi, a former student of the university. We are, and always have been, very sorry to know of Mr Onikosi’s illness. The status of Mr Onikosi’s visa is a directive of the Home Office, and the university is not able to influence that decision in any way.”
The University of Sussex Students’ Union also released a statement on its website supporting Onikosi and the occupation, stating: “We support students’ rights to protest peacefully about issues that matter to them. We support students’ calls for Luqman to be allowed to remain in the country as we fear that if he is forced to return to Nigeria he will be unable to access the vital health care he needs.” USSU also added that “elected officers will be meeting University officials to advocate on [Onikosi’s] behalf.”
Disruption to facilities in Bramber House is minimal, with the Co-op and both restaurants open for business.
Speaking to the Independent last month, Onikosi said: “My battle to stay in the UK on medical grounds is a fight to stay alive. I believe it is barbaric to send a third member of my family, me, to my death.” He added: “[International students] are treated as ‘cash cows’ by most education institutions. We are not treated as human, we are dispensable and even the relation of the customer to a marketised education system is not enough to allow us to progress.”
More to follow…