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Visa refusal for China expert Miwa Hirono

Poor decision from the Home Office results with Nottingham University losing their academic expert on China

It has been reported that the Home Office’s visa 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”.

The facts reported are that Miwa Hirono came to the University of Nottingham in 2008 on a five-year Research Councils UK fellowship, which then automatically became a permanent lectureship; she made an application for indefinite leave to remain, which was refused because she could not meet the continuous residence requirement, which limits the absences in any 12 months to 180 days within the 5 year period; Dr Hirono is reported to have spent 200 days outside the UK in 2009 and 2010 and lodged an appeal to challenge the refusal. The approach taken by many who find themselves in a similar position is to rely on Article 8, European Convention of Human of Rights (“ECHR”), which is the right to a family and private life.

It is reported that Dr Hirono has a one-year-old child born in the UK and had bought a house while at Nottingham, clearly demonstrating ties to the UK. We understand that nearly all Dr Hirono’s absences had been for research into China’s foreign peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

Dr Hirono won her appeal based on her human right to a family life and you would expect that to be the end of the matter, what with the specific facts of her circumstances and reasons for her absences presented to and considered by an independent FTT Judge. However, the Home Office appealed that ruling, noting that “the appellant has been fully aware…that their stay is precarious”. Much to our surprise, the appeal was admitted. We understand that Dr Hirono has decided to abandon her fight and who can blame her.

We understand that Dr Hirono has accepted a position at Kyoto University in Japan and had commented:-

“I need stability; I can’t live like this..…..……..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, is reported to have commented that the Home Office’s appeal was both “vindictive and bone-headed”. Professor Humphrey is reported to have 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, is reported to have 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”.

In view of this, we fail to understand the rationale to prevent Dr Hirono from continuing to reside and work in the UK, especially as the period of excess absences relates to a period before the 180 day rule was introduced. We would have thought that at the very least, attention would be given to her absences following 2012, which we understand were less than the 180 day maximum.

We would urge the Home Office to take immediate action to protect the interests of universities and the expert migrants who join them and raise the profile and kudos. We would also like them to consider the damage to the reputation of the education sector in the UK that poor decision have as universities are investing significant time and money to build their brand image and develop partnerships overseas.


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