- Omar Barghouti, Palestinian co-founder of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has been granted a visa to travel to the UK only after the end of the Labour Party conference and its fringe meetings.
- By granting the visa, the UK Government recognised that there are no grounds to deny Mr Barghouti the right to enter the UK
- Mr Barghouti’s visa is dated September 19th, but the Home Office declared on September 20th that a decision had not yet been reached
- Mr Barghouti and Palestine Solidarity Campaign are calling for an immediate apology from the Home Office and an explanation for the delay, amidst accusations that the British government is complicit in Israel’s suppression of Palestinian voices and freedom of expression
Following an unexplained and abnormal delay in his visa application, which had prevented him from travelling to the UK to speak at the Labour Party Conference fringe, BDS movement co-founder and human rights defender Omar Barghouti has now had his visa granted by the British government.
However, to Mr Barghouti’s surprise, the date stamped on the visa is 19th September 2019, two days before Labour Party Conference began. That same day, the British Embassy in Amman informed Mr Barghouti that there was “no decision yet from London” regarding his visa. The following day, the Home Office responded to an inquiry by a reporter with The Guardian saying that Mr Barghouti would “receive a decision shortly”. Mr Barghouti was informed that a decision was made on 24th September.
Mr. Barghouti and Palestine Solidarity Campaign are calling into question why, if indeed the visa was granted on the 19th, the Home Office wasn’t aware of the decision on 20th September, and why Mr Barghouti was given contradicting information.
This revelation comes after delegates at the Labour Party conference overwhelmingly passed a motion on Monday reaffirming Labour’s support for Palestinian rights including their “collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes”. The motion also commits the Party to apply international law to all trade with Israel, including to stop all arms trade with Israel that is used in the violation of Palestinian human rights.
Accusing the British government of “complicity” in Israel’s repression of Palestinian voices and refusing to be silenced, Mr Barghouti ultimately spoke via video link to a packed conference fringe meeting organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The meeting featured Diane Abbott MP and Lisa Nandy MP. PSC is demanding an apology from the Home Office and an immediate explanation for the disruptive delay in communication.
This entirely unjustified restriction on Mr Barghouti’s freedom of movement is part and parcel of the growing efforts by Israel and its allies to suppress Palestinian voices and the movements for Palestinan rights. This crackdown coincides with rapid growth in support for the Palestinian-led, anti-racist BDS movement and its goals in the UK and globally.
PSC will now be inviting Mr Barghouti to come to the UK to speak at alternative events, including speaking in the UK Parliament.
Omar Barghouti said:
This repressive delay by the British government in issuing my visa was intended to silence yet another Palestinian voice. Israel’s far-right apartheid regime has desperately outsourced its war on the nonviolent, anti-racist BDS movement for Palestinian rights to its anti-democratic allies in the UK, the US and elsewhere. But they have failed to silence me, and they will surely fail in stopping our human rights movement from continuing to grow its impact and its principled, intersectional partnerships with movements across the UK fighting for social, economic, gender and climate justice.
Richard Burden MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, said:
I am very concerned by the unexplained discrepancy between when Mr Barghouti’s visa was apparently approved and when he was told that it had been approved. The UK authorities knew he needed the visa to attend the Labour Conference so this really is not good enough. I will be tabling a Question in Parliament to the Home Secretary.
Kamel Hawwash, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
The Government must account for what looks like a deliberate attempt to delay the processing of Omar Barghouti’s visa to prevent him speaking at the Labour Party conference. The government should be holding Israel to account for its assaults on the collective rights of Palestinians, not colluding with its attempts to suppress the voices of Palestinians campaigning peacefully for their inalienable rights. Now his visa has been granted we will ensure Mr Barghouti is given a platform to speak in person in the UK, including in parliament.
Notes to editors:
- Omar Barghouti forced to miss Labour Party Conference due to visa delay: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/20/bds-activist-will-miss-labour-conference-after-visa-delayed
- Labour conference 2019 passes motion in support of Palestinian rights: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/labour-votes-palestinian-right-return
- I was stopped from speaking out against Israel’s crimes – Britain’s complicity in Palestinian repression must end: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/israel-palestine-bds-omar-barghouti-labour-party-the-world-transformed-a9116481.html
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