Home Office rejects Egyptian conservator's visa application - Museums Association

Home Office rejects Egyptian conservator’s visa application

Ayman Habib was invited to attend a conference at the Natural History Museum in London
Rob Picheta
Organisers have appealed to the Home Office after an Egyptian technician invited to attend a conference at the Natural History Museum had his visa application rejected.

Ayman Habib, a conservation technician at the Egyptian government’s Ministry of Antiquities, had received funding to attend the Sixth International Mountmakers Forum at the Natural History Museum in London.

But he has been denied entry to the UK, with the Home Office saying it could not verify Habib’s salary and could not be sure he would not attempt to stay in the country.

It marks the latest in a number of recent rejections for academics and artists invited to events in the UK.

Earlier this month, Abdelrahman Othman, an award-winning curator also employed by the Ministry of Antiquities, saw his application to attend an Egyptology conference in Swansea rejected. The Home Office later reversed its decision and allowed Othman entry.

Habib’s rejection prompted organisers to intervene, with exhibition specialist Helen Walker and head of conservation Lorraine Cornish sending a letter to UK Consular Officers in Cairo.

The letter says: “We pledge our full support to Ayman Habib and would ask you to consider the professional benefits of his application and grant him a UK visa.

“The conference provides opportunity for communication, co-operation and information exchange, between museums, museum professionals and others concerned with the profession of mount making.”

It asks the decision be overturned “in the context of fruitful partnership and cooperation that brings together the world’s museums under the umbrella of the International Council of Museums.”

Visa applications from north Africa have a 28% chance of being rejected, compared to a 13% worldwide average rate, according to Home Office data.

The conference, which is being held in Europe for the first time, runs from 25-27 September.

In its response to the visa application, the Home Office said it was unable to verify Habib’s salary, which he said is 36,000 Egyptian pounds, an above-average salary in the country.

The response also informed Habib that the Home Office was “not satisfied that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit and that you are genuinely seeking entry as a visitor”.

Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association, said: “The Museums Association is very much in favour of international dialogue and collaboration and it is disappointing the hear that another application to attend an international conference in the UK has been turned down.”

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