Visa refusal for China expert Miwa Hirono is ‘pure madness’

Home Office under fire over ‘indefensible’ appeal forcing international relations expert to quit UK

March 19, 2015

Source: Getty

Stymied: Dr Hirono was researching China’s foreign peacekeeping operations

The Home Office’s refusal to allow a high-flying academic expert on China, who has advised the UK government, to remain in the UK has been described by one of her colleagues as “pure madness”.

Miwa Hirono came to the University of Nottingham in 2008 on a five-year Research Councils UK fellowship that then automatically becomes a permanent lectureship.

However, her application, made last March, for indefinite leave to remain was denied because she had breached a rule forbidding applicants from leaving the country for more than 180 days in any year during the previous five. She spent about 200 days abroad in 2009 and 2010.

Dr Hirono, who has a one-year-old child born in the UK and bought a house while at Nottingham, said that nearly all her absences had been for research into China’s foreign peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

The Japanese national won an appeal based on her human right to a family life. However, the Home Office appealed that ruling, noting that “the appellant has been fully aware…that their stay is precarious”. The appeal was admitted last week. Now, having not had her passport for a year, Dr Hirono has abandoned her fight and accepted a position at a university in Kyoto.

“I need stability; I can’t live like this,” she said. “What has happened to me is absolutely wrong and everyone understands my point except the Home Office. In the past I have been saying to my colleagues overseas that this is a wonderful place to work but now I am telling them not to come because…your life can be severed all of a sudden.”

Mathew Humphrey, head of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations, said that the Home Office’s appeal was both “vindictive and bone-headed”. Professor Humphrey said that Dr Hirono’s research had had a significant impact on policy towards China, including on the UK’s cooperation programme with the country.

“Perhaps the Home Office think that Chinese-speaking experts on China’s foreign policy grow on trees, but I can assure them they do not. We put a great deal of effort into hiring the best talent to ensure Nottingham remains globally competitive, but under these immigration policies we are doing so with one hand tied behind our back,” he said.

Philip Cowley, professor of parliamentary government at Nottingham, said: “It is pure madness for the government to be driving out an expert on what is probably the most important foreign policy challenge of the next decade. Both from a human perspective and from the interests of the UK, this is indefensible.”

The Home Office said that all applications were “considered on their merits and in line with immigration rules”.

Read more about how UK immigration policy has affected academics.

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Reader's comments (3)

Dear Theresa May, The UK wants to attract the best talent, I have been told. Now, thanks to your disgusting immigration policy, this country is losing a fine academic. As for me, I am disgusted and ashamed to be a citizen of this country. I am losing a dear friend, all thanks to your nasty, vindictive, and petty 'policies' that are only aimed at winning cheap votes from UKIP and allow you to make cheap political postures of looking 'tough' on immigration. Well done. I hope you're happy.
"she had breached a rule forbidding applicants from leaving the country for more than 180 days in any year during the previous five. She spent about 200 days abroad in 2009 and 2010". She is entirely responsible for losing her status. The rules are clear and she chose to ignore them.
Widcombe, let me clarify. In a nutshell, there was an immigration policy change in 2012, and the Home Office applied the new policy to my case retrospectively. The change was two-fold. First, I was supposed to extend my migrant visa (which everyone else was doing), for which none of this 180-day absence rule mattered. But since 2012 the new rule has been that the maximum period of extension is for 6 years, so I was 'forced' to apply for 'indefinite leave to remain' (ILR). Second, this new 180 day rule came into being in 2012. I had long absence from the UK for my research in 2009 and 2010, and they have applied this new law in my case retrospectively. In the old law, work-related absences were regarded as 'compelling' therefore I didn't breach the old law. Where in all this can we see natural justice?