SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 24, 2022

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):University of Sussex

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 24, 2022, Indian authorities denied entry to and deported Filippo Osella, a renowned anthropology and South Asian studies professor from the University of Sussex, who was traveling to attend an academic conference.

After his plane landed in Thiruvananthapuram, Osella was escorted to an immigration desk, where officials photographed and fingerprinted him before informing him that there was a government order to deport him back to the UK. The officials would not provide further information on the reason for his deportation and would not allow him to contact friends and colleagues within India who could vouch for his reputation or seek answers from the Indian government. When he asked to retrieve some medication from his luggage, the officials with Osella threatened to restrain him if he did not stop talking.

Speaking with the BBC, an unnamed Indian government official stated that Osella had previously misused visas issued to him, but could not provide any details about the nature of the alleged misuse. Osella denied those claims. He has speculated that the reason for his deportation could be his previous travel to Pakistan, which he has visited twice and was questioned about by immigration officials during the deportation process, as well as during other visits to India.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary denial of a scholar’s entry to a country to engage in academic activity. State authorities have an obligation to respect academic freedom and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement that limit academic freedom. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, such travel restrictions deter academic activity and undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.