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UCU writes to UK Home Office after Newnham academic denied Leave to Remain

Dr Asiya Islam’s application for Indefinite Leave to Remain was denied last year

Cambridge UCU (University and College Union) has today written to the UK Home Office on behalf of Newnham research fellow Asiya Islam, who was forced forced to leave the country upon the expiry of her visa.

Dr Islam, who started a Sociology PhD at Cambridge in 2015 after completing her Master's at the London School of Economics, had been a UK resident for over 10 years. The Home Office denied her indefinite leave for remain (ILR) on the grounds that she had spent an extended period conducting research for her PhD in Delhi, which the university has said was fundamental to her programme of study.

In January, Dr Islam tweeted that, despite a petition signed by over 2,000 academics and numerous letters, there has still been no action from the Home Office.

In a Twitter thread posted on the 6th November, Dr Islam wrote: "I provided several letters to present the case that fieldwork is a crucial aspect of my work and should not count towards my days out of the country. But nope, apparently I 'failed to provide any exceptional reasons in support of your out of time application'.

"They also considered my application with regards to my private life & decided that since I’m only 31 years old, I can 'reintegrate back into life and society in India'. Oh and I can keep in touch with my UK friends through 'modern communication' [cuz you know WhatsApp FTW]".

In her letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU, says: "UCU is deeply concerned that the Home Office has refused to recognise that Dr Islam's travel outside the UK was for research purposes and authorised by the institution, and therefore not in contravention of the restrictions on absence for those on Tier 4 visas."

She argues that "the Home Office's restrictive interpretation of the guidance means we risk losing a talented academic from our higher education sector […] More generally, the decision also risks undermining the ability of other students and researchers to undertake valuable overseas research which can enrich the UK's understanding of important global issues".

Dr Grady concludes her letter by stating: "I would welcome the chance to meet with you to discuss these matters in more detail. In the meantime, I urge you to urgently reconsider Dr Islam's case".

This is not the first letter signed in support of Dr Islam. In November, an open letter circulated, which was signed by academics from across UK institutions.

Cover image: Cmglee, Creative Commons