An Iraqi nun who wants to visit her sick sister in the UK has been denied a visa by the Home Office.
Sister Ban Madleen was driven out of Qaraqosh, the biggest Christian town in the Nineveh plains, by ISIS, who took over her Dominican convent. She settled as a refugee in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdestand, where she set up kindergartens. The refugees are returning to their home towns now that ISIS have been driven out.
Sister Ban is not the first religious to have problems visiting Britain, according to Fr Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, which helps the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. Another Dominican nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford has been refused a visa twice.
The letter from UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office, gives the reasons for refusing Sister Ban a visa: that she had not provided evidence of her earnings as a kindergarten principal, and that she had not provided confirmation that the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena would fund her visit. For these reasons, the letter says the clearance officer is not satisfied that she is genuinely seeking entry for a permissible purpose.
Rather than allowing Sister Ban to provide the necessary evidence, the letter, a copy of which the Catholic Herald has seen, ends: “In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review.”
The letter acknowledges the importance of family visits, and accepts that Sister Ban had previously travelled to the UK and complied with the terms of her visa, but points out that she was issued that visa seven years ago in 2011 and comments specifically on her absence of recent travel to the UK. Fr Kiely said: “Do they not know what happened between 2014 and now?”
This is the latest case where foreign religious have been refused entry to Britain. A year ago the Institute of St Anselm, a Catholic institute training priests and nuns in Margate, Kent, was forced to close because of problems with visa applications for foreign students. Institute founder Fr Len Kofler said that a Catholic priest was refused a visa to study at the Institute because he wasn’t married, and a nun was denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account because she belonged to a religious order.
In December 2016 three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry into the UK despite being invited by the country’s Syriac Orthodox Church for the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, attended by Prince Charles.