Indian Researcher Expresses Anguish Over UK Visa Denial, WHO Raises Concern

The researcher termed current visa policies of developed countries as discriminatory because they exclude scholars from economically weaker backgrounds from attending international events.


An Indian research scholar has expressed his anger over being denied a UK visa to attend an international conference due to insufficient bank balance.

Sabu K U, a Ph.D. scholar in Kerala’s Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology had applied for a visa to attend the Fifth Global Symposium on Health System Research in Liverpool, United Kingdom. His visa application was rejected due to insufficient bank balance. He later said the decision was wrong as he was awarded a scholarship that covered the entire cost of the conference.

The World Health Organization (WHO) too came to his rescue by raising its concerns over denial of visa to academicians.

After his visa request was denied, he wrote an article titled “A Reflection on the Inclusiveness of International Conferences on Health and Social Justice” to share his anguish of being rejected for the visa. He says that 25 days after submitting the visa application, he got a rejection letter saying that his visa application is being declined as his bank account doesn’t maintain enough balance in it.

“Was it not enough that I had received a scholarship to cover the full cost of attending the symposium and the scholarship award documents had been submitted with the visa application? And what does this visa rejection mean?” he wrote in his article.

Sabu wrote in his article that visa rules of developed nations make it impossible for the economically weak non-EU researchers to attend events happening there.

British newspaper the Guardian quoted Dr Masoud Dara, a communicable diseases coordinator at the WHO as saying, “International events are better organized 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’ travel to and from various countries.”

Prof. Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, called Sabu’s visa rejection as disgraceful and slammed the rejection in a tweet.

Sabu has alleged that he was denied visa as he belongs to a lower-income background and said that to attend such global events, one should belong to an economically sound section of the society.

“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 or middle-class family that is able to maintain a sufficiently high bank balance for the minimum three months that is required, in order to be granted a visa to attend such an event,” he wrote in his article.

He also said that rich countries typically stereotype people from a lower income country as illegal migrants, no matter how much educated or talented they are.

“This rejection also reflects richer countries’ stereotyped views of individuals from poorer countries as being illegal migrants who would try to overstay their visas and make a living in those countries,” he wrote.

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