Indian-Origin Cambridge Fellow Told to Leave UK, Academics Protest

More than 1,000 academics have written to United Kingdom’s Home Office, recording their protest against the government denying permission to Cambridge research scholar Asiya Islam for permanent residency in the country.

Islam, who has been staying in the UK for the last 10 years, is an Indian by birth and hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh.

A “highly respected” academic, she first studied at the London School of Economics and later at Cambridge. She was a Gates scholar and was awarded a three-year junior research fellowship at the university after completing her PhD earlier this year.

Why Was Asiya Denied Permanent Residency?

Islam received a letter from the Home Office, citing that her application for permanent residency had to be rejected due to “time spent abroad” despite having made the UK her home since 2009. This means that she will be required to leave the country by the end of January, when her student visa expires, reported The Guardian.

The letter also said Islam could “reintegrate into life and society in India … having only being [sic] in the UK for a short period”, and added that she could maintain friendships in UK “via modern means of communication.”

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Reason for Asiya’s Time Abroad

The open letter signed by academics said that the Home Office’s ruling was “unfair” because the time Asiya spent abroad was for her fieldwork research in India, a necessary requirement to finish her PhD.

From 4 July 2016 to 1 June 2017, Asiya worked in New Delhi to complete her PhD research on ‘Gender, Class, and Labour in the New Economy of Urban India’.

The letter stated that while Cambridge supplied letters for her ILR application confirming that her fieldwork abroad was a necessary condition for awarding her PhD, the Home Office has ruled that Asiya “failed to provide any exceptional reasons” to support the time-abroad exemption.

"“By rejecting my and other academics’ applications for leave to remain on the basis of their days out of the country conducting crucial fieldwork, the Home Office is signalling that global researchers are not welcome in the country.”" - Asiya Islam to The Guardian

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Rules Damaging Ability to Attract Global Talent

The open letter warned that the country’s immigration rules will damage UK universities’ ability to attract global talent.

"Her case is distressing, but it also sends a foreboding signal that UK universities will continue to lose the talented PhD researchers that they have invested years in training," the letter said.

It further stated that not only was Asiya’s work already disrupted by the government, she could also face immediate deportation.

“Asiya’s work has already been disrupted by the Home Office’s refusal to exercise appropriate discretion in her case. She now faces the expensive prospect of appealing the Home Office decision, which if not overturned could lead to her immediate deportation; and/or loss of her current academic post,” the letter said.

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