A GROUP of Kenyan ordinands and clergy have been denied visas to
visit the UK as part of the diocese of Chelmsford's centenary
celebrations, on the grounds that they might not return to Kenya at
the end of their trip.
The diocese has had a link with the Anglican Church of Kenya for
decades, and has frequently arranged exchange visits for Kenyans to
come to Britain. But of a group of 20 people, including bishops,
clergy, and students invited to join in with the diocese's
centenary mission, eight have had their visa applications denied,
and four have yet to hear whether their applications have been
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said in
an interview with BBC Essex on Sunday that the decision made no
sense. "I'm feeling pretty angry, and a bit ashamed," he said.
"The people whose visas have been accepted are the bishops, and
the Principal of the college, but the theological-college students
- who, by definition as students in a poor country, don't have
means or money, because they can't demonstrate any sort of income -
their visa has been refused because it is thought they wouldn't
In the same interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he
also thought it was a "bad decision", and would write to the Home
Secretary, Theresa May, to demand that the decision be
"It's deeply damaging to the reputation of this country, as
these are people who will be leaders in their country," he said.
"There's a very long history of this kind of exchange, and the
number of people who have overstayed is negligible."
One of those denied a visa, Pauline Mbuko, a second-year
ordinand from the diocese of Kirinyaga, was told in a letter from
the Home Office that it was "not satisfied that you genuinely
intend only a short visit to the UK, and that you will leave the UK
at the end of the visit".
The letter suggests that Ms Mbuko does not have her own
finances, or family ties to Kenya, which would provide a reason to
return to Kenya after her visit.
The Dean of Mission and Ministry in the diocese of Chelmsford,
Canon Roger Matthews, wrote to the UK visa office in Nairobi last
week, asking for the visa refusals to be reconsidered.
In his email, he said: "The refusal to issue visas is being seen
as unwillingness to offer hospitality, which is highly regrettable
for us as a diocese and part of the national Church of England. It
also gives a false impression of the UK as the post-colonial
He noted that one priest, the Revd Richard Muriuki, was denied a
visa despite being in full-time employment; whereas another, the
Revd Benson Thungururu, from the same diocese, was accepted.
The UK Border Agency official who replied, Veronica Karanja,
said that the only grounds of appeal were race or human rights, and
refused to explain the visa rejections further, only referring back
to the individual refusal letters.
A spokesman for the Home Office said that it did not routinely
comment on individual cases. "All applications are considered on
their individual merits and according to the evidence provided," he
said. "Applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the
requirements of the UK immigration rules, including personal and
Dr Matthews said on Wednesday that the five ordinands who had
been rejected would travel to Nairobi today to reapply for visas,
at a cost of £80. Those in the group who do have visas still plan
to travel to the UK next month.
In a similar case earlier this year, a priest from Sudan, the
Revd Timothy Krindi, was denied a visa to visit the diocese of
Salisbury to raise awareness of the conflict in his country,
despite the diocese's fully sponsoring his trip (News, 4 April).