British MP Debbie Abrahams was on Monday (February 17) morning refused entry into India after she landed in Delhi on an Emirates flight from Dubai. An associate of the MP, Harpreet Upal, told The Associated Press that her Indian visa, which was valid until October, was cancelled at the airport. No reasons were given, the MP’s aide was quoted as saying.
The AP report quoted a statement from Abrahams that read: “I tried to establish why the visa had been revoked and if I could get a ‘visa on arrival’ but no one seemed to know. Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened. So now I am just waiting to be deported… unless the Indian government has a change of heart. I’m prepared to let the fact that I’ve been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends.”
Labour party MP
Abrahams belongs to the Opposition Labour Party, and has been MP for the constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth in outer Greater Manchester since January 2011. After winning a byelection that year, she was re-elected in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
The MP describes herself as being “passionate about tackling inequalities” in society. She was a member of the UK Parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee from June 2011 to March 2015, and was re-elected in July 2015. In September that year, she was appointed as Shadow Minister for Disabled People, and in June 2016 as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Abrahams is Chair of the British Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir. APPGs consist of Members of both Houses who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest.
According to the UK Parliament website, APPGs “cover a diverse range of subjects and are established for a rich variety of purposes”. While they are not official parliamentary bodies — and therefore different from Select Committees of Parliament — they “provide a valuable opportunity for parliamentarians to engage with individuals and organisations outside Parliament who share an interest in the subject matter of their Group”.
Critic of India’s J&K policy
The purpose of the Kashmir APPG is “to support the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people through dialogue; to seek support from British parliamentarians; to highlight the abuses of human rights in Kashmir; and to seek justice for the people there,” the UK Parliament website says.
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Immediately after India removed the special status of J&K on August 5, 2019, Abrahams wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to flag alleged violations of human rights, and to ask if the UK would raise the matter at the (then upcoming) UN Security Council meeting in September.
“We are gravely concerned at the announcement by Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been removed by Presidential Order,” Abrahams asked, according to news reports published at the time.
Abrahams said that the “unilateral decision” of the Indian government amounted to betrayal of the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, besides threatening to “escalate tensions in the region even further”. She also wrote that India’s move “contravenes international law”.
Abrahams also issued a letter to India’s High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam.
Public health background
Abrahams has a professional background in health, and she is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, the United Kingdom’s top professional body for public health specialists and practitioners. She has advised health ministries in countries cross the world, as well as agencies such as the World Health Organisation.
According to the MP’s website, she is married to former cricketer John Abrahams, who was captain of Lancashire for a couple of years from 1984. His player profile on ESPNCricinfo describes Abrahams as a “good captain and popular captain”, who is a career of 252 first class matches scored 10,059 runs at an average of 29.76.
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