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Unesco chair blasts ‘discriminatory’ UK visitor visa system

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One of Unesco’s chiefs has said she will no longer host any international conferences in the UK because of the Home Office’s “inept”, “embarrassing” and “discriminatory” visitor visa system.

Alison Phipps, the Unesco chair in refugee integration, has accused the government of operating in effect a “secret travel ban” by refusing visitor visas to academics – particularly those from Middle Eastern and African countries – even when they have full sponsorship to visit the UK and are visiting to take part in government-funded projects.

Another academic, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, a professor of migration and refugee studies at University College London, spoke of the frustration of inviting academics to attend a parliamentary event in March, which was co-sponsored by the House of Commons’ international development committee, only for most visas to be refused.

Mary Ryan, a research manager and the international development coordinator at the Glasgow Centre for International Development, has said there is “deep-seated concern” for the ability of UK research institutions to be globally relevant given the “perceived obstructive nature of visa processes”.

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