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Students have protested over presence of weapons companies at Uni of York’s career fare

‘Student fees are covered in the blood of innocent refugees’


Yesterday, a protest took place on University of York campus against the inclusion of MBDA Missile Systems and BAE Systems in the careers fair to recruit graduate students, calling into question the University of York’s relationship with these companies.

The protest took place at 11:15am on Wednesday 11th October, outside of the Exhibition Centre. Students groups carried Palestinian flags, leaflets, and signs which stated “Your profits are covered in blood” and “We stand with refugees”.

York STAR, a non-profit organisation arranged the protest, where students from the University of York’s Palestinian Solidarity Society, Extinction Rebellion Hub, and Amnesty International, spoke. Protesters gathered around the speakers with signs and messages of solidarity, whilst those sharing their opinions spoke through a megaphone.

Speaking of the university’s values, organisers from the York STAR said: “This relationship is in direct contradiction with the university’s values of being a welcoming and inclusive campus and question their commitment to its status of being a University of Sanctuary.”

‘Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here’

Lucy*, a student protesting stated how the weapons manufactured by BAE systems and MBDA Missile Systems “have been used to butcher civilians all across the globe from Yemen and Libya to Palestine”. She reiterated the York STAR’s press release, expressing the urge for the university to cut all ties to “bloody thirsty weapon manufacturers.”

She continued: “The uni states on its website that ‘the University of York welcomes those who are displaced’ and that they ‘seek to be a safe space for refugees and asylum seekers and other people that have been forced to migrate'”.

Describing this as “utter hypocrisy”, Lucy said: “how dare you say you welcome refugees and asylum seekers when you create refugees and asylum seekers.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are created from war, displacement, genocide, and destruction, exactly the things that MBDA missile systems promote and are producing. It is time for action. Stand with us as we say no to blood, as we say no to war.”

The protesters chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” and “Your profits are covered in Palestinian blood.”

The protesters chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” and “Your profits are covered in Palestinian blood.”

Jack* from York’s Extinction Rebellion Hub also said: “This university has blood on its hands.”

Referring to the university, Jack said: “They are placing money over morals, profit over people, and showing a complete disregard for the survival of our futures”.

Jack added that the invitation of MBDA showed that the uni is complicit in what the UN has termed “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.

He said: “The Saudi led intervention in Yemen has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. Weapons supplied by MBDA to Saudis have killed innocent people. They are indoctrinating students into their capitalist death cult that is morally reprehensible and the university should be ashamed.”

Jack also mentioned the invitation of Drax at the career’s fair yesterday, saying how “Giving this platform to companies responsible for the death and destruction of people in the global south appears to a running theme of this careers fair.”

He added how the factories which create these pellets are located primarily in black neighbourhoods in the global south, poisoning the air and confining people to their homes: “By giving this company a place at the careers fair the university is green lighting environmental racism.”

Protesting students called for immediate digress from the armed industry and companies destroying our planet, saying about the university, with Jack saying: “Their pathetic attempt to shut down free speech yesterday by kicking out students who were peacefully pointing out the damage caused by Drax shows that they are desperate and that we have the power. Together we can and will secure digressment. We have to. Millions of lives depend on it.”

Jamie*, a student from Amnesty International, a group who have done work opposing the arms trade, said: “More that 1,600 people have been killed since Saturday alone in the Israel and Hamas conflict. In the meantime BAE systems’ shares have risen by 2.71 per cent.

“The university has brought to campus companies which have been allowed to make millions off the the deaths of innocent civilians caught in conflict. The Uni of York should know better that to propagate conflict over peace building as it is completely against the university’s ideology.”

Jamie noted the “hypocrisy” of giving refugee to people who are fleeing war but at the same time making deals with those arming those wars, “something the student body will not stand for.”

‘Refugees cannot be silenced’

During the protest, organisers thanked everyone for coming and for showing solidarity with refugees, with one student saying: “We are here to show our support locally and globally in this peaceful protest.”

They highlighted their “disgust” and “horror” when first hearing about these companies being invited to the career fair, and noted how the university state on its website that it’s “home to students from over 150 countries”.

“This invitation is a violation of this core principal. If morality is inconsistent, it means nothing. If the uni really does have students from over 150 countries then imagine what students from Yemen, Syria, Libya, or from Palestine must feel.”

They described the action of trying to recruit students from this uni, which holds themselves in high regards for their treatment of refugees, to work for a company that creates refugees as “tone deaf, hypocritical, insensitive, and unethical”.

“Millions have died due to weapons created by these two companies which the uni is pushing to actively recruit people today. It is sickening and it is wrong and the higher-ups of the uni have brought them down once again. Refugees cannot be silenced. That’s why we have to stand up for them.”

‘They are profiteering from apartheid and war’

Speaking of the air strikes in Gaza, Bobbie* said: “These air strikes will continue in the upcoming days and possibly thousands will die. Remember the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people supported by MBDA and BAE systems is nothing but profit to them. They are profiteering from apartheid and war. All I can say is get these companies off our campus.”

After the protest outside the careers fair, some students decided to protest from inside the careers fair. One student, Amy*, spoke of being pushed and and branded an “attention seeker” by security guards.

“After the protest, a few of us wanted to tell students about the horrific actions of MBDA missile systems. We chanted and students were horrified knowing that MBDA commits such awful war crimes. A security guard man handled me and pushed me, another security guard called me an attention seeker. My people are dying because of these weapons right now, if that makes me an attention seeker, so be it.”

‘Our student fees are covered in the blood of innocent refugees across the globe’

York STAR’s press release expressed the need for the university to immediately cutting ties to MBDA missile systems and BAE systems and to readdress its mistakes by funding extra a PhD scholarship for refugee students, at the University of York. They stated: “Our student fees are covered in the blood of innocent refugees across the globe.”

A University of York spokesperson said: “We respect our students’ right to peaceful protest and while we know that many of our students will have strong views about the defence sector, we don’t have a policy to exclude companies from interacting with our community.

“Lots of university careers fairs taking place across the country are open to all sectors, with the aim to provide students with the opportunity to see who is recruiting for graduate vacancies, placement years and internships from a wide range of industries, so they can make personal informed decisions about their future careers.”

*Names changed for anonymity.

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