Syrian Students Face Expulsion from UK Courses
Hundreds of Syrian students in the UK face being deported before they complete their studies after many have seen their funding withdrawn due to the crisis in their home country. This has left their university fees unpaid, and the possibility of early expulsion from their courses.
There are 670 Syrian students in the UK, all facing the very real possibility of being thrown off their courses and forced to move back to Syria. There are a number of reasons why the payment of fees for Syrian students has become all but impossible.
The Syrian Ministry of Higher Education was funding a large proportion of the students in the UK, but, with the government in turmoil, has since stopped payment of their fees. What's more, any funding that does reach the UK must be processed by the Syrian Embassy, which is now effectively non-existent after a number of defections and expulsions.
Even those students who were funding themselves are now struggling to pay the fees after the Syrian currency (the lira) collapsed and sanctions on Syrian banks make transferring money almost impossible.
All this adds up tuition fees being left unpaid, which has led to a number of universities threatening to expel their Syrian students. The University of Edinburgh is one notable exception- telling their students that they do not face expulsion given the circumstances.
Pressure on British Government
With awareness of the students' plight growing, the British government is facing increasing pressure to step in and show their support. Global online pressure group Avaaz has set up a petition aimed at Foreign Secretary William Hague, which currently has over 40,000 signatures.
They are calling for the government to place the financial liability of the fees not against the students or universities, but instead the Syrian National Coalition- the legitimate opposition in Syria recognised by the British government. Luis Morago, Campaign Director of Avaaz said:
"This smacks of double-standards. The UK beats the drum for action on Syria but is only now waking up to problems facing hundreds of Syrian students in Britain who face being thrown off their courses. The UK Government must intervene and ensure they can continue their studies in Britain and won't face the threat of deportation."
Leaders of the campaign are pointing to a comparable situation with Libyan students in 2011 when their country was facing a similar crisis. In that case, the British government did step in and allowed the students to complete their studies despite the non-payment of fees.
Christine Gilmore, a student at Leeds University who started the petition at Avaaz said:
"Two years ago, the British Government helped Libyan students unable to pay their fees -- why can't they do it for Syrians? If they are deported back to Syria - many face certain torture and persecution... this is a test of how committed Britain really is to helping the people of Syria affected by Assad's brutal regime."