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Student rent strikers targeted with eviction at London university, campaigners claim

STUDENTS at an east London university have been evicted from university housing because of their involvement in rent strikes, campaigners alleged today.

The group organising the ongoing rent strike at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) says that 20 students have been kicked out since September, leaving some homeless in the middle of the pandemic. 

Activists said that the university is using “minor rule breaches” such as tampering with fire alarms to target students who are withholding rent. 

Since January, students at dozens of universities nationwide have joined rent strikes, which have grown into the largest such movement in 40 years, amid anger at being forced to pay for rooms they cannot inhabit, limited face-to-face teaching and other restrictions. 

QMUL Rent Strike accused the university of giving “insufficient support” to evicted students, with some waiting three weeks to be able to apply for Covid-19 hardship funds.

Others have had “do not rehouse” notes added to their files, the group added. 

A 19-year-old who is among those evicted said: “I believe I have been targeted by QMUL for being a vocal rent strike organiser. 

“I have no family home to go to in the UK and I am forced urgently to find housing in the middle of a pandemic. 

“QMUL is aware of these circumstances but made no concessions to reflect them and my requests for a less extreme punishment and a review of the disciplinary procedure were denied.”

Labour MP Apsana Begum, who represents neighbouring Poplar and Limehouse, called on the university to stop evicting students. 

She wrote on Twitter: “Universities’ duty of care towards vulnerable young people must be upheld in the middle of a pandemic. Disturbing that those who have organised rent strikes are being targeted with evictions.”

National campaign Rent Strike Now is calling on QMUL to rehouse the evicted students. 

The university said that no student had been evicted for participanting in a rent strike and that notices were only given for “serious breaches of their contracts.” 

A QMUL spokesperson said: “Only very occasionally do we have such significant issues with a resident that we have to issue a notice to quit. 

“However, when students endanger their own lives and the lives of others, for example by disabling fire safety equipment or repeatedly breaching coronavirus regulations, we have no option but to request that they leave.”

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