Concerns are being raised that the Government’s efforts to reduce the net migration figure is leading to the refusal of UK visas for academics, journalists and campaigners invited to speak at conferences in Britain.
They include refusals for tax campaigners asked to speak at the House of Commons and academics invited to give presentations on human rights.
The charity ActionAid said that campaigners from parts of the world with low salaries were being rejected for UK visas on financial grounds, even though they are generally sponsored and fully supported for the duration of the planned visit.
ActionAid’s Barry Johnston told The Independent: “Decisions taken by the UK Government on issues like tax, business and aid affect people in developing countries, yet they are being denied the chance to speak up, and the UK public are eager to hear their stories.”
One of the speakers invited to address an ActionAid event was Tiwonge Gondwe from Malawi. The activist, who is working to prevent violence against women, was turned down for a UK visa due to her “insufficient personal income”.
She said: “I wanted to come to the UK to build international support for women’s rights, but because I’m a volunteer I was told I did not earn enough money. That makes no sense.”
Meanwhile, tax justice campaigner Reverend Suzanne Matale from Zambia was unable to secure a visa to address a Christian Aid event at the House of Commons, and Cephas Makunike of Tax Justice Africa was turned down for a visa to speak to British companies on the topic of business responsibility.
The Independent said that in the past, campaigners and NGOs have been “sensitive” about complaining about the Home Office’s policies, as they need it to arrange visas. However in private, the paper said they are concerned about the Government’s “obsession with reducing numbers”, which has led to the current spate of rejected visa applications.