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Kerala health expert denied UK visa, sparks row over new rules

Kerala health expert Sabu KU wrote in a blog post that the visa refusal reflected “richer countries’ stereotyped views of individuals from poorer countries as being illegal migrants who would try to overstay their visas”.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2018 08:27 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Kerala health expert,UK visa,visa
Sabu K U, a researcher at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Kerala, has been denied visa to attend a major conference on health systems in Liverpool, sparking concern over the ability of non-EU experts to attend such events in the UK due to tough rules.(File Photo)

Sabu K U, a researcher at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Kerala, has been denied visa to attend a major conference on health systems in Liverpool, sparking concern over the ability of non-EU experts to attend such events in the UK due to tough rules.

Sabu, who was given a scholarship to attend the Global Symposium on Heath Systems Research, wrote in a blog post that the visa refusal reflected “richer countries’ stereotyped views of individuals from poorer countries as being illegal migrants who would try to overstay their visas”.

He is reported to be among at least 10 delegates to the conference affected by tough immigration rules that include the applicant proving a specified minimum balance in the bank for the previous three months.

“In reality, it shows that even if someone from an LMIC (lower-middle income country) receives a full scholarship to attend such an international symposium, that person must also belong to an upper and middle-class family that is able to maintain a sufficiently high bank balance for the minimum three months”, Sabu wrote. Sabu’s visa refusal and problems faced by others sparked concern.

Masoud Dara, communicable diseases coordinator at the World Health Organisation, told The Guardian: “International events are better organised in countries where the invited participants can more easily attend”. “The tough immigration policies may have impact on academic cooperation, if specific measures are not put in place to facilitate scientists.”

Martin McKee, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: “Academic collaboration is yet another consequence of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy”.

“At the same time that it is promoting global health through its international development funding, it is denying visas to those who are working on the ground to improve the health of some of the poorest people in the world as they seek to share their experiences and learn from others at conferences in the UK. In these circumstances, it makes sense to hold such conferences in countries where they can participate more easily.”

The Home Office refused to comment on individual visa applications, but said: “All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with UK immigration rules and guidance”.

“The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they satisfy the immigration rules. In addition to any support provided by a sponsor, decision-makers will take account of an applicant’s own personal and financial circumstances in assessing whether the application meets the requirements for the immigration rules.”

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 23:50 IST