Syrian scholar ‘angry’ over Dublin scholarship visa denial

A Syrian scholar who received a scholarship to study for a PhD at Dublin City University (DCU) said he was ‘angry and depressed’ that he couldn’t take advantage of ‘a life-changing opportunity’ after his application visa to come to Ireland was rejected.

Mustafa Keshkeia, a translator and lecturer at Damascus University, was due to travel to Dublin in October 2021 after receiving a four-year postgraduate research fellowship at DCU’s School of Applied Languages ​​and Intercultural Studies . However, in October he received a letter from the Irish Embassy in Abu Dhabi informing him that his application had been rejected for several reasons, including lack of adequate proof of secure finances and lack of evidence that he would definitely return to Syria once the doctorate was completed. is finished. Mr Keshkeia appealed the decision, providing additional documents about his finances and the tax-free annual stipend included in his scholarship.

“I do not intend to stay in Ireland beyond the period I am permitted to stay there,” he wrote in the appeal, adding that the DCU had only offered him the scholarship. on the agreement that he would return to Syria when finished to continue his work in Damascus.

“I also leave my family in Syria. I could have left my country in 2015 with all the people who applied for asylum in Europe at that time. I never thought of leaving my country.

In December, Mr. Keshkeia’s appeal was dismissed. The embassy informed him that the appeals officer was “not satisfied enough” that his main objective was to pursue his doctorate and that he was also not convinced that there were enough economic opportunities in Syria to encourage Mr. Keshkeia to leave Ireland after completing his studies.

“They don’t believe I come to study in Ireland because I’m Syrian,” he told The Irish Times. “For them, all Syrians are asylum seekers. It’s stereotypical and I consider it an insult. I have a master’s degree, I was a translator for the Indian Embassy in Syria for 10 years, I work at the University of Damascus, I am going to Ireland to study my doctorate.

“My research project is on Syria, my case studies will be on NGOs operating in Syria, so even during my studies I will come back here to collect data. I have no intention of staying long term in Ireland. I leave my family here, of course I will return to my country.

Open letter

Mr Keshkeia said DCU was now trying to put his PhD online so he could do it remotely from Damascus while liaising with his supervisor in Dublin. However, he believes his studies will suffer if he is forced to work remotely from his colleagues in Dublin.

An open letter, posted online and signed by nearly 90 scholars based at universities across Europe and the United States, including Ireland, Spain, Austria, Finland and the United Kingdom, called the Irish Embassy to “withdraw its discriminatory visa refusal” which restricts Mr. Keshkeia’s “academic freedom and right to travel”.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said it does not comment on individual cases, but “each visa application is considered fairly and in detail on its individual merits. An applicant’s nationality is irrelevant. on how an individual request is considered and processed.”

Some 82% of the 227 visa applications made by Syrian nationals in 2020 to come to Ireland were granted, while nearly 64% of the 942 applications made in 2019 were granted, according to the department.

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