Anger over student's forced exit

February 17, 1995

The forcible return of a student union president to his native Zimbabwe has triggered a storm of protest from his university, student union, member of parliament and the National Union of Students.

Pancho Ndebele, president of Brighton University Students Union, was refused an extension to his student visa following a visit abroad at Christmas.

The NUS argues that this contravenes an exemption acknowledged by immigration for overseas students elected to sabbaticals, which was granted by a Home Office minister for immigration in 1974.

Mr Ndebele was also refused leave to appeal against the decision.

David Watson, director of Brighton University, said: "Mr Ndebele is a highly respected member of the university community.

"His contributions to the board of governors and the students union are greatly valued. I am shocked at this action which has interrupted his term of office as president."

Jim Murphy, NUS president, said: "This is a sad example of immigration's appalling attitude towards overseas students, whom many universities and colleges go to great lengths to recruit, and is a deliberate and arbitrary contradiction of the ministerial exemption."

A spokesperson for the Home Office would not comment on the case, but said: "All students are expected to go at the end of their course, unless there are strong compassionate reasons for their remaining."

She argued that there were no exemptions written into immigration rules.

An appeal has now been lodged for leave to appeal, but it is feared that the slowness of the process will result in Mr Ndebele's being excluded from the country for the whole period of his term of office.

Mr Ndebele is in his second and final year of a sabbatical position at Brighton, having been re-elected to the presidency by his fellow students.

He is a graduate in electrical and electronic engineering and had intended to follow a post-graduate course, an MSc (Eng) in water resources technology and management at the University of Loughborough when his term of office finishes in the summer, in order to prepare for a career in land irrigation projects at home in Zimbabwe.

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