The Iraqi Catholic nun who had repeatedly been denied entry into the UK where she has a sick sister has finally received a visa following a U-turn by the Home Office.
The news comes after the Home Office told The Tablet on 3 July that it was re-opening the application by Sister Ban Madleen, a Dominican religious sister who was forced to flee Islamic State in 2014.
Following repeated queries from The Tablet, Sr Ban was contacted by officials, informed of the decision and asked to provide additional evidence to demonstrate that she meets the UK's immigration rules.
The nun made unsuccessful applications for visas in March and April. The second application, for a month-long trip to see her sister and sister’s family, was denied last month.
Immigration officials had told her that she had not provided enough evidence that she was not going to overstay her visa and attempt to live in the UK permanently. The officials also said that she had failed to demonstrate that she made a sufficient income as a school principal, and she had not shown that her community would be funding her trip. The denial letter also questioned why she had not visited the UK since 2011, when she was last granted a visa.
Sister Ban’s case had been taken up privately by the senior Catholic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, and was raised in Home Office questions in the House of Commons yesterday by Sir Edward Leigh, also a Catholic Conservative MP.
Fr Benedict Kiely, the founder of Nasarean.org, which helps persecuted Christians in the Middle East, had strongly criticised the Home Office decision to turn down Sr Ban’s visa application.
He told The Tablet today: “This is wonderful news, but it’s very sad that it needed national publicity and the intervention of a senior parliamentarian to get a visitor’s visa for a nun persecuted by ISIS to visit her family in Britain. There needs to be a new attitude at the Home Office for victims of genocide to receive a more compassionate and swift response in the future.”
Sr Ban’s convent, the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena, is in the Christian town of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh plain. It was occupied by ISIS for two years from 2014. She fled during the occupation and settled in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where she established pre-school centres.