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First UK university pledges no investments in border violence

​News | 19 October 2022

Cardiff Metropolitan University has become the first university in the UK to divest from all companies that profit from border violence, resulting in a first win for the student-led Divest Borders campaign.

Cardiff Metropolitan University has included in its Ethical Investment and Banking Policy the commitment to “screen out Border Industry companies”. This forms part of the university’s wider approach to not invest in “companies or activities which are considered to be unethical” and which “threaten community and international stability”.

This announcement comes in the context of an estimated £ 327 million in university portfolios invested in the companies that make policies such as the UK’s Rwanda offshoring plan and the Hostile Environment a reality. These companies include Serco, who run UK detention centres with a record of widespread neglect and abuse, Airbus, who service drones to track the movement of migrants in the Mediterranean, and tech giant Accenture who have represented refugees as potential terrorists as selling point for their surveillance systems.

This is the first victory for the UK-wide Divest Borders campaign, which is coordinated by student campaigning charity People & Planet. In the 11 months since the campaign launched, student-led campaigns have formed at 25 universities across the UK, all calling for their university to end their complicity through investments in border regimes that kill, injure, and violate the rights of migrants and people seeking safety. Since the launch, the campaign has gained public support from over 100 migration scholars and university workers from across 35 UK universities.

Eva Spiekermann, Co-Director: Migration Campaigns and Movement Building at People & Planet, said: “Cardiff Metropolitan University’s announcement to break investment ties with border industry companies sets an incredible precedent for the UK higher education sector. With over 60% of the higher education sector divested from fossil fuels, UK universities have demonstrated that they are willing to use divestment as a way to remove the social licence of unethical industries. As governments build higher and higher physical and virtual walls and scapegoat people on the move, border industry companies are happily making a business of death, detention and deportations. UK universities have a role to play in defending the values of sanctuary, international solidarity and justice for all. This is the first of many Divest Borders wins.”

Professor Rachael Langford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “Cardiff Metropolitan University is proud to be recognised by People & Planet as the first university in the UK to align investment practices with immigration justice. The University does not currently hold any investments with companies involved in the border industry and we are not making any changes to our investments. We are therefore delighted to make it our policy never to invest with companies involved in the border industry. As Wales’ first University of Sanctuary, Cardiff Metropolitan University acknowledges the unique injustices faced by migrating people and the role educational institutions must play in redressing this.”

Venky Gonavaram, Students’ Union President at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “On behalf of all students, we would like to congratulate the university on UK’s first aligning of investment practices with immigration justice, as well as Wales’ first “University of Sanctuary”, creating a welcoming culture of inclusiveness. We commend the university’s efforts in this space, and we hope to continue learning and creating a culture that is truly inclusive of all people.”

Orla Tarn, President of National Union of Students Wales, said: “It’s brilliant to see a university in Wales become the first in the UK to commit to divesting from the borders industry. This is down to the hard work of students and students’ unions at Welsh universities and beyond, and all of those supporting People and Planet’s Divest Borders campaign. I encourage every university in Wales to follow suit to ensure that companies complicit in human rights abuses against migrating people have no influence on our campuses.”

Aliya Yule, Organiser at Migrants Organise, said: “The announcement today that Cardiff Met will divest from companies complicit in Britain's racist border regime is a huge win, and demonstrates our power when we come together to organise against the hostile environment. At Migrants Organise we work with thousands of people who are subjected to dehumanising and degrading conditions - conditions deliberately created by companies who profit millions by doing so. We must continue to take action together until all universities divest from these companies and we end the hostile environment and instead build a world based on dignity and justice for all."