WHO voices alarm as academics denied visas to visit UK

The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed alarm about the impact of the United Kingdom government’s immigration policy on international academic cooperation after several foreign scholars were denied visas to attend a conference, writes Matthew Weaver for The Guardian.

The organisers of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Liverpool are compiling a dossier of immigration problems that are understood to have affected at least 10 of the event’s 2,000 registered delegates. They include Sabu Kochupurackal Ulahannan, who is researching nutrition and inequality among children in remote tribal communities in Kerala, south-west India. He was one of 291 delegates awarded a scholarship to attend the event, in an initiative – partly funded by the UK government – aimed at low- and middle-income countries. But Kochupurackal Ulahannan, who is studying for a doctorate at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram, was denied a visa by UK immigration officials. He was told he had an “insufficient balance” on his bank account.

Professor Asha George, the chair of Health Systems Global, which was hosting the event, confirmed other academics had faced similar problems. “We are saddened that some of our colleagues are unable to join us in Liverpool … for visa reasons. We are committed to finding ways to improve access to forums such as the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which promote international debate and exchange on critical global concerns,” she said. Kochupurackal Ulahannan’s plight has prompted calls for international academic events to be relocated to countries with a less hostile immigration policy.

Full report on The Guardian site

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