QMUCU was shocked and appalled at the fire that engulfed a flat at Maddocks House on the Tarling West estate in Shadwell on 5 March. The fire claimed the life of Mizanur Rahman, a father of two, who died in hospital after being rescued by firefighters. Mizanur was one of 18 people sharing a cramped, three-bedroom flat, from which the landlord was reportedly earning £10,000 a month. Several of the tenants were international students.

This fire and its aftermath underline many of the problems faced by international students in Britain. Tuition fees averaging £22,000 a year, combined with the rocketing price of accommodation, mean that students are increasingly pushed into informal and unsafe renting. Many students are forced to work long hours to meet the rising cost of living, often in the insecure gig economy, as was the case for several of the survivors of the fire.

Moreover, these students face institutional discrimination from central government, who refuse to allow them recourse to public funds. Several of the fire survivors’ visa conditions mean they have no access to public funds that could see them rehomed.

The tragedy at Maddocks House is a microcosm for all that is wrong with international student funding, housing and immigration status in Britain. QMUCU calls on government and education institutions to address these conditions, to ensure that the survivors are securely homed, and to ensure that such incidents never happen again.