Universities of Sanctuary stand in solidarity with all who are affected by the crisis in Afghanistan.
We are deeply concerned about the lives of the many people now at risk in Afghanistan, including many Afghan academics, scholars, and students trying to continue their education and work. Please support the actions at the end of this statement.
It is difficult to imagine the plight of those at risk both in Afghanistan and in the UK, the emotional and financial hardship some of the scholars may be facing, and the uncertainty about their families or friends still in Afghanistan. Thousands of people have tried to escape on flights out of the country and many more have already crossed borders.
In the UK, there are currently over 2,500 Afghan people still awaiting refugee status. Many students may need to resort to claiming asylum to ask for protection and might lose their funding and face serious disruptions to their studies and their lives.
Universities of Sanctuary believe:
- The UK Government must improve its commitment to refugee resettlement and commit to hastening a sizable (at least 20,000 in the first year) resettlement process in the immediate term.
- No Afghan students shall be subject to any restrictions or pause to their education in relation to their student visas or UK scholarships. Specifically:
- The UK Government must speed up its evacuation and visa processing of Afghan Chevening scheme recipients.
- Universities should ensure that current students who are unable to pay fees are adequately supported and able to continue their studies.
- The UK Government should ensure that a funding scheme is set up to support Afghan students who are unable to pay their fees.
- All Afghan students and staff in our universities who are currently in Afghanistan be supported to return to the United Kingdom and their families to be offered protection as a matter of urgency.
- Afghan scholars and academics at risk of harm must be provided protection without delay. Family reunion rules must be extended to include their parents and siblings so that they can continue their work here knowing their loved ones are safe.
- We are concerned to hear reports of some academics receiving death threats and female academics being dismissed. With academic freedom and the role of the university at grave risk, scholars from Afghanistan must be given sanctuary until, one day, they can return to help rebuild. We call upon all universities, academics, learned societies, and professional organisations urgently to step up their support to academics and scholars through the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara).
- The Borders and Nationality Bill will discriminate against anyone who comes to the UK via irregular routes, even when compelling reasons apply. The Bill must be urgently revised to address these challenges in light of the developing situation in Afghanistan.
- Universities must redouble their efforts to provide opportunities for all who have been involuntarily displaced to continue and thrive in their education, through the provision of sanctuary scholarships and related initiatives.
We call on the UK Government to take urgent action . We also support other calls for the Government to do all they can to protect people from Afghanistan including a resettlement programme as per the City of Sanctuary Statement.
We also call on Universities across the UK to continue supporting and welcoming Afghan students, academics, and researchers seeking sanctuary into their communities. Many universities are proactively supporting Afghan members of the community who have arrived in the UK and are forced to experience a9 hostile environment that threatens their wellbeing, and who are now undoubtedly additionally traumatised by recent events.
We call on all universities to use their influence to demonstrate their support and commitment, by sharing this statement, engaging in relevant campaigns, and taking part in emergency responses to ensure the continuing education and safety of current and future students fleeing violence.
Please support the following actions in response to the crisis:
Chevening Scholars have started a petition calling the UK Government to urgently include them in the Afghans Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) evacuation efforts as they are facing imminent threats to their lives. Click here to support their petition.
They have also raised these concerns in the media.
Student Action for Refugees (STAR) have published a guidance and information webpage for students who may be in need of support.
Refugee Education UK (REUK) have an emergency response appeal to support Afghan children and young people as they arrive in the UK, and young Afghans who are already here with vital services.
We are asking supporters to sign and share the petition calling on the UK government to do more and resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees.
Universities of Sanctuary advise Afghan students to seek legal advice.
Header photo credit: Dreamstime.com