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Denmark’s top foreign student deported for working extra 1.5 hours a week

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The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration has ignored pleas to allow an international student from Cameroon to remain in the country after he worked one and a half hours over the maximum 15 hours for some weeks in 2013 and 2014.

Thirty-year-old Marius Youbi was four years into his Electrical Engineering degree at Aarhus University when the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration, or SIRI, under the Ministry for Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs, decided not to extend his residence permit for the last two years of his studies.

In Denmark, the law states that international students can only work 15-hours per week alongside their degree, but state officials claim Youbi worked an extra one and a half hours per week through some weeks in 2013 and 2014, violating the conditions of his permit.

The decision was made in spite of protests from the university, who described Youbi as “the best we have”. Danish working unions and the media also joined the fight, but even a petition yielding 18,000 signatures, delivered to the hands of the country’s Integration Minister Inger Støjberg, could not sway the decision, and the student was forced to board a plane on January 8th under full coverage of the Danish media.

The outcome falls in light of growing support for the Danish People’s Party, a far-right anti-immigrant faction that is placing pressure on the Danish government to toughen their stance on immigration, including a crackdown on students from poorer countries who gain entry to the country via a student visa but instead take up full-time work.

Denmark has been at the centre of a similar high-profile case surrounding Shalik Ram Bhattarai, a Nepalese student who was forced to leave the country with his wife and son earlier this month, again for reportedly breaking the conditions surrounding student working hours.

The Danish Society of Engineers defined Youbi’s deportation as ‘distorted’, with one spokesperson, Frida Frost, quoting: “We want strong foreigners to study and work in Denmark. This case is tiresome, where many people are putting their heads in the sand.”

Youbi is described as the ideal student; a high achiever in his field who worked hard both in and out of the classroom. The student kept up with tuition payments despite not being entitled to a loan, and worked part-time as a cleaner to raise funds for his degree.  After being made aware he had exceeded the maximum working hours, Youbi paid a fine of DKK2,500 (US$365) last year, hoping the case would be dropped and he could continue on with his studies.

Staff and faculty at Aarhus University were left gutted by the decision, and upon being ordered to leave, pushed Youbi’s exams forward, leaving him just 48-hours to revise for three end-of-term tests. Regardless of the time restriction, the student achieved grade 12, Denmark’s A-grade counterpart, in all three tests.

Youbi could not believe the outcome of the case, telling the Danish broadcaster DR that his studies, along with his future ambitions, had now “gone up in smoke”.

“I have built up something in Denmark,” he said. “It is hard to say goodbye to so much.”

Image via DR Nyheder.

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