As a general rule, scientists don’t like politics. Those that do often aren’t the best scientists. In a field where the most important factor is how exciting your discovery is, things like borders and immigration laws become nothing more than an annoyance (except for epidemiologists).
The World Health Organisation has recently condemned UK immigration officials for their inflexible approach to temporary immigration. The Global Symposium of Health Systems Research was missing ten members from its 2,000-person guest list due to visa issues.
One of the requirements for a visa from many non-EU countries is a payment of £168 – relatively small to some Western-born scientists, but it can mean an entire month’s salary to those from a poorer country. The system has been described as creating “racial discrimination, and discrimination against the poor”.[pullquote]The Global Symposium of Health Systems Research was missing ten members from its 2,000-person guest list due to visa issues.[/pullquote]
This isn’t the first time UK border enforcement has gotten in the way of academic communication, either. A lawyer from Nigeria was denied entry last month. When I attended the British Toxicology Congress in April this year, a number of people had remarked that it had been somewhat difficult to get into England.
It has been suggested that the Government could create a scientist-specific visa to allow temporary entrance to the UK to attend these events. Knowing how averse the powers that be are to anything that remotely resembles progress (or a skin tone darker than pine furniture), however, means this will be a pipe dream.[pullquote]One of the requirements for a visa from many non-EU countries is a payment of £168... it can mean an entire month’s salary to those from a poorer country.[/pullquote]
With this “hostile environment” attitude, it seems likely that global conferences such as these will be steered away from the UK in favour of countries with more lenient entry procedures. Both the hard border and Brexit will cause the loss of millions of pounds in research grants, meaning that scientists are well-advised to leave the UK indefinitely