Indignation sparked as Home Office denies Visa to Cambridge sociologist

By Eva Fernandez

Dr Asiya Islam, an Indian sociologist at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, has been denied permanent residency in the UK after having lived in the country for a decade. Islam graduated from LSE with Distinction in MSc in Gender, Media and Culture in 2010.

From July 2016 to June 2017, Islam left the UK to do field work for her PhD in India. 

She was backed by Cambridge University in doing so, but is deemed to have spent too many days out of the UK during the application process to be able to obtain the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Islam has applied for a Tier 2 visa to legally protect herself while her appeal to obtain the ILR is still ongoing. The Home Office’s refusal of the ILR endangered her ability to work and rent in the UK and almost left her with an “over-stayer” status. 

Academics across the UK have protested the decision in an open letter to the Home Office,  describing Islam as a “superb academic”, winner of a Junior Research Fellowship, and judging the visa denial unacceptable. The letter, which obtained 2,055 signatures from students, professors and staff, warns the UK Government to avoid sending xenophobic messages when handling foreign academics’ application. 

56 of the signatories are LSE Professors, Faculty and students, including Emeritus Leverhulme Professor Mary Evans and Professor Tarak Barkawi, from the International Relations Department. 

Dr Islam’s case is not isolated. Other academics have faced an unwelcoming immigration environment and had their visas denied. Furaha Asani, a young academic at Leicester University, had her visa application rejected in August in 2019. 

Four days before Brexit, on 27 January, the UK government announced the launch of a fast-track ‘Global Talent Visa’, indicating the country’s intention to encourage and welcome international scholars and students. However, Islam remains unable to obtain the Indefinite Leave to Remain.

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