A number of Palestinian mental health specialists who had been invited to speak at an event in London have been refused UK visas for the trip.
The group of four Gaza Ministry of Health staff had been expected to address a mental health conference organised by Kingston University on the trauma suffered by people living in war zones. A psychologist from Bethlehem University was also refused a visa for the event.
The conference was co-organised by the UK Palestine Mental Health Network, which wrote to The Independent to highlight the UK visa refusals.
It said: “It is beyond our comprehension how such an interference with intellectual and clinical discussion on such an important topic could be justified.
“This is a measure that further isolates clinicians from Gaza, already struggling under the impact of military assaults and siege.”
The group called on the Government to reverse its decision.
Meanwhile, fellow conference organiser, Mohamed Altawil of the Palestine Trauma Centre (PTC), called the visa rejections “a direct abuse of basic human rights”.
He said the Palestinian nurse and three doctors had been sponsored by the World Health Organization to come to Britain. He said they had been turned down by British authorities over concerns they may not return to Gaza after the conference and due to a lack of finances. He said the group had been told they did not have a right of appeal against the decision.
It was reported that psychologist Dr Nahida Al-Arja’s visa application was rejected to incomplete forms.
The international conference at Kingston University was due to feature speakers from the UK, Israel, Italy, the US and Finland.
PTC chairman of trustees, David Harrold, said that by excluding Palestinians from the event, UK officials were “showing a prejudice and discrimination that the conference organisers have clearly avoided”.