Thursday, May 31, 2007

Talent down the drain

Professor al-Zubaidi is an Iraqi clinical biochemistry professor with 22 years experience. He's just been offered a post at Bangor university. He has a permit under the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). So far, so good. But he's now trapped in the bureaucratic minefield that is the UK immigration system.

The "S-series" passport Prof. al-Zubaidi was issued, as one of the first wave of fleeing Iraqis, is not deemed valid to allow him to re-enter the UK if he leaves, but his HSMP permit only becomes valid if he does leave the UK and returns. He's now been told he has to become an asylum seeker, and hence ineligible to work. So he loses the chance to work, and we lose a highly skilled academic. His case is detailed in the Times Higher this week.

Still, Prof. al-Zubaidi is relatively lucky. The Brussels Tribunal has a list of 317 academics and counting that have been assassinated. Now no-one who doesn't have a militia behind them is safe in Iraq right now, but in targeting academics the killers are doing their best to cripple progress and education in Iraq for years to come. This is surely the death of hope.

Professor Issam al-Rawi, Head of the Association of University Professors, was murdered last year. Before his death he said:

Political groups inside and outside the country are seeking to rid Iraq of individuals capable of independent thought. By doing so, the men of violence make it easier to push their own agenda.

The Council for Refugee Academics has an emergency appeal for Iraqi academics"

Your donations will help CARA:

* to provide practical and financial support to Iraqi academics and their dependents
* to identify and support hosting opportunities in UK Universities and scientific institutions
* to raise awareness of the plight and exceptional case of Iraqi academics at this time
* to seek ways to assist academics still in Iraq or who have found temporary refuge in neighbouring countries
* to lobby the UK Government to provide a safe haven for Iraqi academics - Iraq’s future educators.

At the very least, it will help people like Prof. al Zubaidi face the insane Catch 22 that only bureaucracy can create.

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