SAJID Javid, the UK Home Secretary, must urgently investigate and overturn a “discriminatory” decision that has seen two young disabled musicians from India refused entry to Scotland today to take part in a British Council funded cultural exchange programme with an award-winning music ensemble, it is claimed.

Jyothi Kalaiselvi, a 19-year-old violinist and Prem Bhagavan Nagaraju, a 25-year-old keyboard player, who are both blind, were due to arrive today in Edinburgh for a two-week visit hosted by the Scottish charity, Paragon Music.

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Travelling with a group of people from the disability organisation Devasitham Charitable Foundation, based in Chennai, three non-disabled colleagues who were supporting them were granted entry whilst the two musicians had their visa applications refused by the Home Office. Jyothi’s mother’s visa was also refused.

The trip, funded by a British Council legacy project money, was to be the return trip of the Indian musicians to the UK after the Paragon Ensemble visited Chennai – in the south-east of India – in November 2017 as part of the Indian Independence celebration. Both Jyothi and Prem both took part. The programme had received funding from the British Council, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government.

The National:

After the return trip was agreed in January, flights were purchased and visas applied for, but all were shocked when the young blind musicians were told their visas were being refused because the Home Office was “not satisfied that [they] have sufficient ties in India that will act as an incentive for [them] to leave the UK at the end of [their] trip”.

Their refusal is the latest in a growing number of scandals. In May Fiona Hyslop – in response to concerns about the devastating impact of visa refusals on the future of Edinburgh’s festivals – invited Sajid Javid, Welsh ministers and a representative of the Northern Irish Executive to Scotland to discuss the effects of Westminster’s “hostile environment” on overseas artists.

The Sunday National also heard from numerous academics about flawed Home Office polices that were routinely seeing overseas academics have visa applications denied, which they claimed were jeopardising the reputation of Scotland universities.

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Ninian Perry, creative director of Paragon Ensemble, said the “devastating” and “discriminatory” decision must now be reversed by the Home Office. “These are our friends from a bone-fide charity doing amazing work with young disabled people for the last 10 years. Our principle concern is that this decision must be reversed. These are our guests and they have been set against a profile that the Home Office is using completely inappropriately,” he added.

“The message that the UK is sending out to disabled people from other countries is blatant. It demonstrates clear discrimination. It wouldn’t stand-up under the Equalities Act, but the Home Office has found some pretext under a processing tool and has not allowed them to come here.”

Plans for the trip – approved by the British Council in January – included workshops, seminars and performances and visits to sister organisations including Drake Music, Sense Scotland and Independence. Paragon Music, founded in 1980 aims to use music to transform the lives of young people and adults by participating in high quality music and dance performances.

Almost £5000 had been paid out for return flights and visas, which has now been lost.

Dr Alfred Benjamin, director of Devasitham Charitable Foundation, said: “We were all excited about this wonderful opportunity. It was like dream come true for all of us especially for Prem and Jyothi. But when we opened that letter of refusal it was all shattered. It was a big blow.

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“Being visually challenged and autistic, it was very difficult to [understand] the reasons [for it] and explain to them.”

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP Glasgow Central, has called on Sajid Javid to investigate and overturn the Home Office decision. She said: “It’s incredibly cruel that a valuable cultural opportunity has been denied to these young people, particularly when the exchange programme was set up by the UK Government in the first place.

I’ve come to expect this kind of mean-spirited behaviour from the UK Home Office, but it is deeply “disturbing that only the young people with disabilities were singled out.

“Sajid Javid must investigate the discrimination at the heart of the hostile environment.

“I call on him to overturn this senseless decision immediately. Scotland should not need permission from Sajid to allow young people from around the world to visit our country and share in cultural events.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland is a welcoming and progressive country, recognising the valuable and often vital contribution people from across the world make to our communities and culture.

“We are deeply sympathetic to all those who have difficulties navigating the complex and increasingly restrictive UK immigration rules. We know these rules can often be a barrier to cultural participation which is why Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop recently wrote to the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Culture, and counterparts from the devolved administrations, inviting them to attend a summit to discuss visa issues with key festivals – arguing that we need a better solution for visiting artists and performers.”

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that all applications were “considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules”.