By The Tablet
An Iraqi Catholic nun repeatedly denied entry into the UK where she
has a sick sister has had her visa application reopened by the Home
Referring to the plight of Sister Ban Madleen, a Dominican religious
sister who was forced to flee Islamic State in 2014, a spokesperson for
the Home Office told The Tablet on 3 July: “We have reviewed the
decision and reopened this application. We are in contact with Sister
Ban...to inform her of the decision and offer support and guidance on
Following repeated queries from The Tablet, Sr Ban has been
contacted by officials, informed of the decision and asked to provide
additional evidence to demonstrate that she meets the UK's immigration
The Catholic 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 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.
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: "This perhaps exhibits a real lack of knowledge
and understanding of the conditions persecuted Christians are living
under, and it appears -- at least in terms of statistics -- that there
is a real lack of expertise in the Home Office when it comes to the
plight of religious orders. It is incredibly demoralising."
A spokesperson for Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Tablet on Monday that the
MP was aware of the situation. The Tablet learned that the senior
Catholic backbencher has taken the case up with the Home Office.
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
In December 2016, three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry into the UK after being invited by the Syriac Orthodox Church to
the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, which was
attended by Prince Charles.
And in 2017, the Institute of St Anselm, comprising a group of
Catholic priests and nuns in Margate, Kent, said that it had been forced
to close because of problems with foreign students’ visa applications.