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Kenyan scholar in UK denied visa for six-year-old daughter

By Hilary Kimuyu November 13th, 2023 2 min read

A Kenyan researcher working at the University of Bristol cannot bring her young daughter to live with her in the UK after her visa application was denied.

Dr Doseline Kiguru, an esteemed scholar of world literature, was initially delighted to secure a permanent position at the University.

But as The Guardian has reported, Kiguru’s joy turned into despair after her application to live with her daughter in the UK was declined last week by the Home Office.

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Dr Kiguru said she was devastated by the “horrific” decision to deny her little daughter a visa and that she could not bear “to think about how alone and isolated she is feeling” back in Kenya.

Dr Kiguru first went to Bristol in 2021 as a research associate on a project on literary activism in Africa. Her work involved her spending long periods conducting field work in Kenya, so the family decided it was not necessary to relocate her daughter.

When she was offered a permanent lecturer position, she and her husband decided to move their daughter to Bristol. Dr Kiguru’s husband, also an academic, cannot look after his daughter because he also travels a lot for research.

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But the visa application for their daughter, who has already been enrolled into a primary school in Bristol, was rejected in October and the family now has one week left to appeal.

The visa process should take 15 working days, but it was not until Bristol University intervened at the start of November that she discovered her daughter’s application had been rejected earlier in October.

The Home Office’s rejection said it saw “no compassionate grounds” on which to allow the child to join her mother. The letter, addressed to the six-year-old girl, added: “It was your mother’s personal decision to depart for the UK.”

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The decision, described by her colleagues as an act of incomprehensible harshness, raises concerns about the UK government’s apparent prejudice against intellectuals from developing countries, despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to establishing Britain as a scientific powerhouse during his tenure as Home Affairs Secretary.

In a statement, the English department at the University of Bristol said: “We’re horrified to hear that our brilliant, dedicated colleague Dr Doseline Kiguru has been denied a UK visa for her six-year-old daughter. Doseline’s a fantastic teacher – many of our followers will have benefitted from her guidance.”

The incident is reminiscent of two similar cases in 2019, when the Home Office was forced to reverse its decision to ban two female academics from Oxford University from entering the country after widespread condemnation from the international academic community.