Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Diliff

Sam Doak

The Home Office has reversed its decision to deny a visa to a Bosnian national hoping to attend a conference at the University of Glasgow. Nadza Dzinalija is currently enrolled at the University of Amsterdam and is working towards a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Dzinalija was initially told that her visa would be denied due to concerns she would remain in the UK after the expiration of her visa.

Immigration officials reached their initial decision despite having been provided with proof the student had booked a return flight to the Netherlands for before her visa’s expiration date. The Home Office’s decision to overturn their decision came only after Dzinalija’s case drew a significant amount of attention in the national media.

Dzinalija was one of two students denied entry to the UK for the conference. The other student, whose visa was denied on procedural grounds, has reportedly abandoned his plans to attend the event. It’s understood that Dzinalija still plans to attend the conference in spite of the difficulties she faced in obtaining her visa. Speaking to the BBC she said: “I’m really excited I can go. I’m sure it’s because of the media attention.

“They called me earlier and asked for more information and then I was told I could go to immigration service and have my passport stamped today.”

Dzinalija’s case was handled free of charge by barrister Jan Doerfel. When asked for comment on the Home Office’s handling of the case, Doerfel argued the following: “The idea that the UK is the promised land is just an arrogant and ignorant attitude.

”It’s assumed she’d rather live in a hostile environment without status rather than continue live in a country she has invested in terms of her education.

“They ignored the fact she has travelled extensively to Australia and within the Schengen area and has always complied with any immigration restrictions.”

Doerfel’s scathing analysis of the Home Office’s handling of Dzinalija’s visa application is in line with attitudes held by many regarding the UK’s current treatment of foreign visa applicants. Critics argue that the UK has become a hostile environment in which to apply for visas and many fear that this jeopardises the country’s ability to attract talented students and academics from abroad. A number of high profile cases have occurred in recent months in which academics have been denied access to the UK on questionable grounds.

Academics from Africa and Asia appear to have been disproportionately affected by the home office’s arguably hostile current stance. A survey conducted between June and July found that approximately one-quarter of African and Asian academics encountered problems when applying for UK visas. North American and European researchers were found to be four times less likely to encounter such problems than their Asian counterparts.

UCL professor Philippe Sands has claimed that the government’s attitude towards visa applicants is so hostile that he organises academic events outside the country to avoid immigration problems. Speaking to the BBC, Sands stated: ”Problems with visas are a regular occurrence. It’s partly due to government policy, and partly to the outsourcing to private companies of the processing of visas. For several years I have been unable to invite certain individuals – distinguished professors, international civil servants – to speak in my classes at UCL, or attend conferences in the UK.

“I now often organise meetings outside the UK to avoid visa difficulties. This is both for academic meetings and for professional activities as a barrister. Britain is now known around the world as a country that does not wish certain foreigners to visit. It’s sad, it’s appalling, and it’s discriminatory.”