OUSU has made an urgent appeal for action against the Government’s new Immigration Bill.
The bill plans to force landlords to check whether tenants are in the UK illegally, while banks will be made to confirm immigrants’ legal status before offering accounts.
It will also charge temporary migrants – such as non-EEA students – £200 a year to use the NHS.
In an email sent to all international students, OUSU encouraged the signing of a national petition – which so far has 5000 signatures – to Theresa May opposing the bill.
Tina Wu, Co-chair of the OUSU international students campaign, said that the bill will affect international students “not only in financial terms…but more profoundly, on psychological terms”.
“The bill signals an antagonistic sentiment of the UK government towards the international population in Britain in general,” she said.
Home Secretary Theresa May told the BBC it was a “point of principle” that those who use public services should contribute to them.
In response, Wu criticised May for her “justification that the bill is only targeting “those who live in the UK illegally and take advantage of UK services”, arguing that it is “not a valid excuse for the wide range of restraints and scrutiny on the international community”.
The bill will also remove the right to appeal for international students who apply for a visa or visa extension.
Yajing Xu, Univ international representative and OUSU international officer elect, said that “though (the bill) is intended to restrict illegal immigration, international students are the ones suffering most under this new bill, as they constitute 75% of those subjected to visa control”.
“International students pay immense amount of fees for studying here already, which covers the NHS usage by and large. Introducing this fee creates a wrong image of international students abusing the NHS,” he added.
The NUS has quoted government statistics showing that 50% of in-country appeals were upheld last year and that 70% of these were due to errors in the application process.
Their website states that “the NUS does not support removing the right to appeal a Home Office decision when the system remains so flawed”.
Xu also objected to May’s proposal that landlords who do not ensure that their tenants have the right to remain in the UK should face fines. “Landlords cannot possibly be professionals for detecting forged papers,” he said.
“They are more likely to turn international students away in fear of being fined for letting someone rent their house illegally, making living in the UK much harder.”
He claimed the bill will “cause a drift between international and home students, creating an unwelcome atmosphere, likely to drive away international students from studying in the UK.”
“One of the things that makes Oxford so special to me is the chance to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds from all over the world. International students make up over 30% of our student body, losing them would be more than just a reduction in number, it would be a huge loss to our education as well as the university’s and the UK’s economy,” he said.
The bill, which is expected to become law in spring 2014, is a coalition led initiative aimed at tackling UK immigration problems.
Under Labour, net migration rose to 200,000 a year. The coalition says that it wants to reduce this number to the tens of thousands by 2015.