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IDS Director calls out unfair and damaging visa system

Published on 10 June 2019

IDS Director, Professor Melissa Leach, has highlighted how a prejudiced UK visa system that is refusing visas for African researchers is undermining international collaborations and efforts to tackle global challenges such as the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

DRC: A Trip to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Ebola, World Bank/Vincent Tremeau Flickr.com, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
DRC: A Trip to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Ebola, World Bank/Vincent Tremeau Flickr.com, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Speaking to the Observer newspaper, Professor Leach said:

“The UK has just committed to investing heavily in the Ebola outbreak in DRC . Here at IDS we are leading a major collaborative research programme to look at efforts to avoid big pandemics.

“At our inception meeting in April all six of the Africa researchers were either refused a visa or it arrived too late. One individual was refused because they said ‘on the balance of probabilities we don’t believe you are a researcher’. This is deeply insulting.

“Across the board I think this adds up to evidence of institutional racism in the Home Office. It’s so arbitrary. Our colleagues here at Sussex and at other institutions now routinely meet in other countries, Dubai for example.”

Professor Leach was also a leading signatory of a letter published in the Observer from 70 senior representatives from academia and civil society who expressed their growing concern over the numbers of African partners being refused entry to the UK.  The letter stated that the UK’s visa system was damaging ‘Global Britain’s’ reputation and called for ‘a fair and equitable visa system that promotes and protects the essential collaborations that mean we can tackle today’s global challenges as well as the unknown challenges of the future.’

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