Russian and Ukrainian experts barred from attending psychotherapy conference in London

The Home Office refused to believe that they were delegates

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The Independent Online

Psychotherapy experts from Russia and Ukraine have been barred from attending a global conference in London after the Home Office refused to believe they were delegates.

Britain is hosting the four-day World Congress for Existential Therapy from Thursday but eight of its star attendees have had their visa applications rejected.

The gathering is the first of its kind and 700 experts from around the world will be attending to discuss mental health treatments.

Many of the Ukrainian experts refused entry were specifically working to rehabilitate victims of war and will now have to present their findings from the front line via an unreliable videolink.

Kateryna Denyskova and Svetlana Proskurnya were denied visas, preventing them from talking about helping refugees recover from trauma.

The rejections are particularly damaging as the meeting is intended to discuss new types of treatment that are universally applicable, rather than only relevant to the West, counterparts said.

Speakers from across Europe, the US, Canada, Central and Latin America, Africa, Australia, China and Japan are attending the conference.

Emmy Van Deurzen, a psychotherapy Professor at Sheffield University who organised the conference, said of the visa rejections: “It’s appalling. These are international events where you imagine in the global village it wouldn’t be a problem for people to travel. We’ve known about this conference for two years and they’ve saved their money so they could come.”

A senior Russian academic emailed organisers in Britain, dismayed that eight of his colleagues had been barred from coming.

He wrote: “Unfortunately, neither us, with the help of lawyers, nor the Congress Organizing Committee, was able to defend the right to receive a visa against the officials. Some of our people were refused a visa with absolutely incredible motivations of refusals.”

Russian academic Alexey Bolshanin is partially sighted and his colleagues fear that visa officials did not believe he could come to the UK for the conference because he could not see. The Home Office deny this, saying his disability was not a factor in the decision.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the Immigration Rules. These contain nothing that would cause an individual to be declined for a visa on the basis of a disability. It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide all the necessary evidence to support the application.”