A respected journalist and fixer who works with British and US reporters covering the ongoing civil war in Yemen has been denied a visa by the Home Office, meaning he cannot undergo potentially life-saving medical and security training.
Ahmed Baider told BuzzFeed News that he applied for the visa in Egypt and had all required paperwork and recommendation letters from several news outlets, and that a British friend had agreed to sponsor his stay in the UK.
He believes his application was rejected purely based on the fact that he carries a Yemeni passport. He was "unhappy with British foreign policy", he said.
Baider told BuzzFeed News he had won a bursary to attend hostile environment training in London from the Rory Peck Trust, a well-known and respected NGO that supports freelancers from around the world.
"In addition," he said, "I managed to get recommendation letters from well-known media outlets such as ITV, ABC News, Sky News, and other letters [from] British friends. Therefore, I applied for a visa in visa centre in Cairo that cost me £407.
"After few days, with no good reasons, they rejected my application. Why all of this? Because I am a Yemeni. It’s not my fault to carry a Yemeni passport, but we are all in the end humans. Many Yemeni people have been rejected before and I can tell all the visa officers when they see [a] Yemeni passport they process it with negative thinking."
In a decision letter, seen by BuzzFeed News, the Home Office said that Baider had not submitted sufficient evidence to prove his occupation, with the official concluding: "I am therefore not satisfied that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit and that you are genuinely seeking entry as a visitor. Your application is therefore refused."
The hostile environment training course that Baider was planning to take equips journalists with the skills they need to work in conflict zones or areas with few resources. Typical courses cover a range of subjects including risk assessment, personal security and travel safety awareness, conflict management, first aid, weapons awareness, information security, and kidnap survival.
The Rory Peck Trust offers bursaries to freelance journalists, photographers, camera operators, and filmmakers, allowing them to gain the vital skills they need to be able to work safely in the field.
A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "The Rory Peck Trust has granted a bursary to freelancer Ahmed Baider to attend hostile environment training. If he is unable to travel to the UK we will try our best to help Ahmed access safety training elsewhere."
Several international journalists who know Baider or have worked with him in the past have voiced their support and called on the Home Office to reverse its decision.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with UK immigration rules and guidance and officials will take into consideration evidence submitted with an application.
“In this case, the evidence provided was not sufficient to prove Mr Baider’s employment or financial situation was as claimed. However, if Mr Baider has further evidence to help his case, then he may wish to submit this in support of a fresh application.”