Dr Miwa Hirono, University of Nottingham (photo: Academia.edu)
Dr Miwa Hirono, University of Nottingham (photo: Academia.edu)

David Barrett on The Telegraph reports on the Japanese academic and UK Government’s foreign policy adviser who is forced to leave Britain because in 2009-2010 she had spent too much time overseas. Dr Miwa Hirono, originally from Japan, has been living in Nottingham for seven years since taking up a position at the University of Nottingham as RCUK research fellow. She has a one-year old boy and an Australian husband who quit his job to join her in the UK.

In whose interest is the Home Office acting forcing Dr Hirono to leave the UK? Certainly not the national one, many would argue, including the University of Nottingham that issued the following statement:

“The University of Nottingham is extremely disappointed that one of its most promising and talented academics, Dr Miwa Hirono, will be leaving the UK to take up a post overseas following  the Home Office’s decision that she and her family are no longer welcome in the country”.

In a globalised world where most top jobs require extensive travelling and international mobility, subjecting right to stay in the UK of an expert of foreign policy – one could argue that a high degree of international mobility is a requirement for the job itself –  to physical presence in the country is a sign either of bureaucratic idiocy or political short-sightedness.

In the first case, one would privilege an explanation based on the Kafkaesque workings of the immigration apparatus, blaming therefore a zealous immigration officer looking for a performance-related gift voucher. How could one otherwise explain the decision to reject the application for visa renewal for an international expert funded by the Research Council UK who had worked extensively for the British government and who is punished for working too much abroad for the organisation she consulted for… the government?

In the second case, the explanation is to be sought in the Home Office leadership pursuing electoral point-scoring and questionable and extensively criticised net-migration policy goal against long term national interest, in which case it is Theresa May that should be blamed.

The truth lies probably in between these two explanations. Either ways, there is a nasty message sent out to resident immigrants and potential new ones.  What the Home Office’s bureaucratic and political narrow-mindedness seems to fail to appreciate or simply discard because not relevant to Theresa May’s portfolio is that immigration governance is much more than just talking to national electoral constituencies and has significant reverberations across national borders. In the era of global communication it is naive to think that the criminalisation of immigration in the UK would not trigger a response from powerful foreign partners (eg. India and Brazil). Will we see another mending intervention by Number 10 or the Foreign Office as in the case of the David Cameron’s trip to India when he reassured Indian students that, despite what gets said in the UK, the country still wants them?