Concerns raised with the University of Birmingham regarding the Durham University PhD student detained in UAE

Following the devastating news that appeared this week in the media regarding the detention in UAE of a Durham University PhD student since May 2018, UNISON emailed the University of Birmingham on Friday 12th October to raise our concerns, and to find out whether our institution has done anything to facilitate Matthew Hodges’ release. We believe that the University of Birmingham has a moral responsibility to intervene in this case, given its increasingly active role in the UAE. 
Next week we will be sending the University another email asking for reassurances regarding the conditions of work and study for staff and students on the Dubai campus, and for staff who are currently working on the Dubai project from the UK. The letter builds on a motion that UNISON passed at a members’ meeting earlier in the year [which can be found here]. We thank UCU for supporting the letter and for their feedback. The first email can be found below:
This week, it emerged that a Durham University PhD student has been arrested at the Dubai airport and detained in solitary confinement without charge since May 2018, simply because he was conducting research there. His partner stated that his rights are violated on a daily basis, and even the efforts made by the UK’s Foreign Secretary in face-to-face meetings with the Emirati Foreign Minister have not led to the student’s release. More details can be found here [link1] and here [link2].
Ourselves and the other recognised trade unions at the University are presently putting together a number of questions and requests for assurances from the University, which we will be sending to you very soon. We feel that this case really highlights the issues involved in opening an entire campus in Dubai. Staff and students at the University are obviously concerned about this case and the implications it has for any member of the University working or studying in Dubai.
Considering that the University of Birmingham is now an important higher education actor in Dubai, we would like to know what support the University has provided to the Durham University student and his family.
  • What has the University done to facilitate his release?
  • We are also concerned that the same could happen to any of the University of Birmingham’s staff and students. What has the University done to preempt and avoid such situations?
  • If a student or staff member were to be arrested in the UAE, what support would they immediately receive?
We look forward to your reply.

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