On March 14, 2015, Dr. Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, was prevented from traveling to the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Ross, who studies labor issues and who has been publicly critical of labor practices in the U.A.E., was traveling there to conduct field research, including interviews with workers.
According to reports, Dr. Ross was stopped from boarding the plane to Abu Dhabi at the airport in New York when a computer flagged his passport. Airport personnel contacted U.A.E. authorities, who reportedly informed them that Dr. Ross was not allowed to enter the country because of unspecified security concerns. As of this report, the U.A.E. has not provided further explanation.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the denial of entry to a scholar conducting field research in his area of expertise. In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, the denial suggests an intent to obstruct that research or otherwise retaliate against the scholar for the content of his academic work and nonviolent expressive activity; conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While States have a responsibility to regulate entry into their territories, denying entry for the purpose of obstructing academic expression would violate academic freedom and State obligations under international law. Institutions operating in territories where such content-based denials of entry are suspected have an obligation to investigate; to seek meaningful, transparent guarantees for academic freedom and autonomy; and to reconsider their activities if such guarantees are absent, inadequate, or not respected.