A British academic who grew up in Somalia believes he has been taken off a US security watch list after a campaign against his treatment by border authorities.
Nasir Warfa, senior lecturer at the Centre for Psychiatry at Queen Mary, University of London, had been denied visas to visit the US for academic and personal reasons since August 2012.
But after an article in Times Higher Education detailing Dr Warfa’s plight, supportive letters from American colleagues to the US authorities and the lobbying of a member of Congress by family members in the US, the apparent travel ban appears to have been lifted.
Dr Warfa said that family members in San Diego had been told that the academic’s name had been flagged up because it matched that of someone else on a US security watch list.
He described the visa problems as “humiliating” and said that despite being a British citizen he had been discriminated against because of his name.
“What does this mean?” he asked. “That I’m not British?”
Dr Warfa said that he had now gained clearance to travel to the US, although this had come too late to attend a conference in Los Angeles scheduled this month.
In terms of attending academic events across the Atlantic, “this year has been messed up completely”, he said. “My diary was in suspension for six months.”
Dr Warfa added that he would now be able to meet with colleagues from Harvard University in August.
“Sometimes mistakes happen,” he said of the apparent travel ban. But he called on the authorities to put in place a system to clear people incorrectly added to watch lists who do not pose a security risk.
“Profiling doesn’t work,” he said.
He added that the THE article had been “definitely helpful” in raising awareness of his situation, as it had been read by people in the US State Department and had elicited numerous supportive comments from academic colleagues online.