Three professional curators of Egyptian artefacts who had been invited to deliver a research presentation at an international museum conference in Swansea have been denied entry to the UK.
The International Council of Museums (Icom) had awarded the three researchers grants in order that they could attend its annual Egyptology conference for scholars and curators – this year, hosted in the Egypt Centre on Singleton Campus.
Despite the fact that copies of letters confirming the grants were included in their visa applications, all three applications were rejected by the Home Office – which cited the trio’s low income as the issue.
Award-winning curator at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Abdelrahman Othman, was one of the three curators whose visas were turned down.
Othman, 30, said he was “surprised” to receive a rejection, adding: “I didn’t see a reason to refuse it. I have a family in Egypt, I’m a PhD candidate and a government employee, and I have a good travel history.”
Othman has attended Egyptology conferences across the globe and this is the first time he has been denied a visa.
Othman’s experience is just one in a recent pattern of similar rejections made by the Home Office. At least three acts scheduled to perform at the Womad world music festival at the beginning of August had to cancel due to rejected visas. Twelve authors set to visit the Edinburgh Book Festival in the same month faced the same fate.
Carolyn Graves-Brown is curator of the host Egypt Centre, Swansea University’s world-class museum of Egyptology. She said: “We value inclusiveness, and can hardly have a conference on Egyptology museums without Egyptian colleagues being there.
“Imagine my embarrassment and dismay when these young Egyptians were refused visas. Here we are telling everyone how welcoming we are, how we support young professionals, and visas are refused.”
Graves-Brown added: “Obviously this does not bode well for the future. Will international conferences, especially ones inviting people from outside Europe, really want to hold conferences in the UK? Universities in the UK will suffer, as well as museums of non-European artefacts.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with UK immigration rules.”
The conference – called ‘Beating Barriers’ – begins on the 4th of September. The three researchers have re-submitted their visa applications with Graves-Brown included as a sponsor.
By Polly Manning, News Editor