Britain’s visa application process for Afghans have been criticised after the Home Office initially refused entry to a woman to speak at a Royal Geographical Society event.
Hanifa Yousoufi, an Afghan woman who climbed her country’s highest mountain, and her fellow mountaineer Freshta Ibrahimi were distraught after the Home Office rejected their visa application last Friday.
The department however reversed its decision on Monday after the issue was raised by the charity Ascend, Sky News reported on Tuesday (24).
Rejecting the applicants, the Home Office stated the fact that they weren’t married and had “shown little in the way of social or familial ties to Afghanistan.”
The letter to Yousoufi said: “You are single and you have not demonstrated any evidence of properties or investments. Given this, I am not satisfied that you have demonstrated a strong incentive to leave the UK at the end of your trip.”
Criticising the entire visa application process, Ibrahimi said there should be a way for Afghans to apply for visa via the British embassy in Kabul instead of travelling to India to do the same.
Marina LeGree, executive director of Ascend, too, was critical of Britain’s visa application process for Afghans.
Merely obtaining visas had cost her organisation about $2,500 (£2,010), she told the media outlet. The applications themselves were a total of just under $1,000 (£804.00) and Ascend had to fund the women’s travel and stay in Delhi.
“Surely there is a way to make the process better,” LeGree said.
Yousoufi and Ibrahimi hope to climb some mountains in Wales before they return home.
“Before joining Ascend I didn’t know about mountaineering,” she said.
“The first time [I climbed] I experienced the real freedom in my life. People were saying: mountaineering is rough. This is not for women. I decided I want to be a hero for Afghan women, that is why I continue mountaineering.”