Academic Border Patrols

combat1Since this topic came up in our CCS program monitoring (course review) session today, I think it would be useful for people to know that there is considerable opposition on campuses to involvement on the part of university staff in the dirty work of the UK Border Police. Below I reproduce the Academic Union’s recent motion from our most recent branch meeting, and after that a separate, but related campaign by Goldsmiths’ own A. Gormley and a few others that – unrelatedly but endearingly – follows up on one of the initiatives suggested at the Sonic Diaspora Beyond Borders Beyond Text workshop we held in CCS in November. I comment without needing to make the obvious references to how well this racist points-based immigration system worked out in Fortress Australia:

Motion: New Home Office regulations (overwhelmingly carried, 12/2/09)

We wish to express our opposition to the new Home Office regulations, introduced under the new points-based system for immigration to the UK, that will require lecturers to monitor international students and to report any absences from seminars, lectures and tutorials, as well as any failure to submit assessment on time. We are opposed to these regulations for the following reasons.

First, they represent a possible breach of Article 8 (the right to privacy) and Article 3 (degrading treatment) of the European Convention of Human Rights and the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Second, such regulations will harm the relationship of trust between students and lecturers that is a vital aspect of doing our jobs which, fundamentally, should be helping students to learn. The regulations, in effect, treat international students as though they are potential suspects who have come to the UK with the specific goal of abusing the immigration system. We feel that this is discriminatory as the Home Office regulations apply only to non-EU students. We also wish to point out that the existing procedures of applying for a student visa requires students to be accepted at an accredited UK institution and, as such, already address the concerns and bogus schools that apparently have motivated the new rules.

Third, the work involved in monitoring international students will add unnecessarily to our workloads, in addition to our regular teaching, administrative and pastoral duties.

Furthermore, we note the passing of a motion in 2008 by Goldsmiths Students Union encouraging staff not to comply with the new rules.

For these reasons, this meeting agrees

1.        To affirm its opposition to the new Home Office regulations;
2.        To request details of the specific plans the University is making with
regard to the implementation of these regulations;
3.        To ask members not to commence implementation of these regulations until these details are made clear to members, and the human rights and workload issues are appropriately dealt with.

The Piece from The Observer contained a final paragraph gem of doublethink: ‘A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We want the United Kingdom to stay open and attractive for creative artists. But at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world.”‘ But the article at least started off lauding the efforts of the artists. For those who think that its not just artists who need to be defended from these draconian rules, it was helpfully pointed out to me that in the new cultural economy we are all “Artists” now. I guess that hype might work. Here are the first few paragraphs of this article:

Top artists battle visa clampdown

  • The Observer, Sunday 22 February 2009

Antony Gormley is leading major arts figures in an attack on security controls which prevent star international performers from entering the UK

The visa legislation has tightened up the requirements for all professionals travelling to Britain from outside the EU in order to perform or take part in an arts event. Artists must now not only show proof of their identity, including fingerprints, but also show they have an established sponsor happy to take full financial responsibility for them and to vouch for all their activities while on British soil. Small organisations must pay a fee of £400 to become an official “sponsor”, while larger groups must pay £1,000.

Leading figures from the art world, including Antony Gormley and Nicholas Hytner, have launched a campaign to reverse stringent visa controls which they claim are preventing top foreign musicians, actors and artists from visiting Britain.

They say that immigration laws introduced last year are restricting artistic freedom and have called on the Home Office to review them.

One example they give is that of the virtuoso Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, who cancelled what was to be his second performance in this country at the Southbank Centre in London when he could not provide the documents required for his planned visit in April.

“This country has always been a hub, an airy place where people from all over the world could come and express themselves in art,” said actress Janet Suzman, one of the signatories of a petition calling for the Home Office to look at the rules again. “This legislation stamps on all that with a clunking, hobnail boot”…

An ‘airy place’ thats been ‘stomped on’. – just how artists speak I’m sure. But however they say what they say, they are at least not as scary as those who would deliver a world’s most secure arts sector. Its a laugh a minute in the museum of democracy. Sign me up now.

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  • john hutnyk  On 24/02/2009 at 23:54

    Subject: OBJECTION TO NEW HOME OFFICE RULES AFFECTING ARTISTS

    – THE PETITION

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/visitingartists

    The Home Office recently introduced new restrictions on international
    artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, temporary exhibitions,
    concerts or artists’ residencies. Visitors now have to submit to a series of
    arduous and expensive proceedures to get their visa, and then more
    bureaucratic controls when they are in the UK. Already a series of concerts
    and residencies have been cancelled. The campaign is led by Manick Govinda,
    artists’ adviser at Artsadmin, and has won support from artists, musicians,
    gallery directors, academics and students. Together we call for these
    parochial and suspicious regulations to be reconsidered, and affirm the
    vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to UK cultural and
    intellectual life. The petition was launched with a letter in the Observer
    , signed by
    high-profile arts figures including artist Antony Gormley, Sandy Nairne,
    director of the National Portrait Gallery, and Nicholas Hytner, director of
    the Royal National Theatre. See the news story
    of the
    petition launch.

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/visitingartists

    “nothing can release life from its obligation to be absolutely passionate”
    (Lettrist International)

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