Opposition-linked students could be detained
London – Arabstoday
Global online pressure group Avaaz has urged the UK government to help hundreds of Syrian students living in the country without money and at risk of deportation, in the midst of the 22-month crisis still
ravaging their homeland.Avaaz has established a "clicktivist" petition, which has already gained more than 40,000 signatures, calling on Britain’s Foreign Office to assist students, much like it did in 2011 for Libyan students following a nationwide uprising against former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
According to the group, some 670 Syrian students could be kicked off their courses, the majority of them currently studying master’s degrees of PhDs, due to lack of funding. Most Syrian students were financed by the country’s Higher Education Ministry, which has since ceased awarding grants.
The Syrian embassy, in charge of processing student payments, has also been dogged by diplomatic defections and expulsions in recent months.
Avaaz even fears that if students have connections with Syria’s opposition, they may be arrested and detained on return to their homeland.
Luis Morago, Campaign Director for Avaaz, said: “The UK beats the drum for action on Syria but has done little to help 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.”
Ministers are urging universities to suspend fees and help the students with hardship funds. The hope is that such money could be returned if an opposition government, such as the Syrian National Transitional Council, eventually takes power.
A statement last week from the universities minister, David Willetts, in association with the Foreign Office and Treasury, said the government “appreciates the potential challenges” faced by Syrian students and would assist them in getting money through the sanctions regime.
In the meantime, Syrian students simply have to cope and sustain themselves, as well as their studies, on a far lower-than-average income.