University of Bristol students have launched a campaign to provide a legal fund for Sanctuary Scholars at the university.
Students facing study bans from the Home Office or ongoing asylum claims can find themselves facing high legal costs without support, as well as having a negative impact on that students’ mental health. The Sanctuary Scholarship disqualifies students from applying for legal aid in most cases as the individual has to meet specific criteria.
Last year two sanctuary scholars received study bans a week before exams. Sitting those exams would have been considered a breach of their ‘bail conditions’ which could result in a fine, or criminal proceedings, including up to six months imprisonment. They were forced to rely on a crowdfunder to collect funds to appeal this decision.
One Sanctuary Scholar, who wishes to remain anonymous, said:
“A study ban is one of the most horrifying experience for anyone who has desire for education. It makes one feel neglected, not wanted, lost of hope and dreams which of course can cause emotional and psychological effect.”
Katie Bales, Lecturer in law at the University of Bristol, a trustee of the City of Sanctuary charity and a founding member of the Sanctuary Scholarship Working Group at the University, explains:
“With no access to employment and limited access to welfare benefits, this means that the only means students have in challenging the study bans is either to spend the scholarship money which is provided to pay for rent, books and food, or to raise money via external fund raising.”
Students from Bristol SU’s Amnesty International and STAR (Student Action for Refugees) have combined forces with Bristol Students’ Union to launch a major fundraising campaign to support a new Sanctuary Scholar Legal Fund.
The campaign aims to raise a fund of £25,000 which will be accessible by Sanctuary Scholars who don’t qualify for legal aid for any legal costs they may incur which prevent them from completing their studies.
In addition to crowdfunding online, the students will be hosting events to raise money for the fund, including an International Food Fair.
Jason Palmer, Bristol SU’s Equality, Liberation and Access Officer said:
“A legal fund will help consolidate the right of our Sanctuary Scholars to study at Bristol. It’s essential in ensuring they receive the legal representation they deserve to have an undisrupted university experience - it would help alleviate both the mental and financial burden of legal costs.”
Societies at Bristol SU are also being asked to contribute to the fund on an opt-in basis.
Anyone can support the campaign by making a donation online at bristolsu.org.uk/sanctuaryscholars.