Game developer and Syrian refugee Abdullah Karam was denied entry into the U.K. just days before the event in which his studio’s game is to be featured as one of the shortlisted titles for the Indie Prize award.
“Path Out” is an autobiographical game based on Karam’s experience escaping the Syrian civil war in 2014. Karam co-created the adventure game under the Austrian game studio Causa Creations. The title is available on Steam and Itch.Io, and the first episode is free.
Karam currently lives in Austria as a recognized refugee, a status which has allowed him to travel to the Schengen Member States but does not permit him entry into the U.K. The developer applied for an express visa in April in order to attend the Indie Prize Showcase during the Casual Connect Europe event in London, which runs May 29-31.
Karam paid additional fees to expedite the visa process in time for the event and completed all mandatory parts of the application process, including multiple interviews in Vienna and providing a written statement from his employer. Despite complying with the U.K.’s Home Office, Karam was denied a visa on May 23.
The rejection letter states that Karam submitted “insufficient translated evidence” of his finances despite his salary information being included in the employer’s statement. The letter also falsely states that Karam is “single with two dependent children,” when in fact Karam has no children.
In addition to this false information, the rejection stated that Karam failed to “sufficiently [demonstrate his] personal circumstances and funds” and that they were not convinced that Karam “[intends] to leave the UK at the end of [his] visit.”
Karam responded to the rejection in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, expressing his distress over the decision and reinforcing that he has no desire to leave Salzburg.
“A European will never have to go through this treatment, but for a refugee or citizen of a nation outside of the global power club it’s a must,” Karam said. “We didn’t choose to be born there, just like others who didn’t get to choose their skin color.”
With the Home Office decision arriving less than a week before the event, a chance to provide supplemental documents was already an unlikely possibility. However, the Home Office would give no chance to Karam to appeal the decision regardless, as the letter also stated, “In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review.”
“After handing in the necessary documents and more, I also got refused for not including a non-mandatory element,” Karam further stated. The “non-mandatory element” refers to a bank statement that the Home Office said could have helped Karam to avoid the rejection, although such a document was simply suggested and not required.
Georg Hobmeier, CEO of Causa Creations, told Variety that in this situation its game content has “somehow [seeped] into reality.”
“With bitter irony we have to notice that the Home Office has provided us with such a moment, when they passed their confusing and, in our opinion, misguided judgment on Abdullah’s visa application,” Hobmeier said. “This is a perfect example for the wicked ways of immigration authorities in many Western countries and a strong reminder how important it is to make games like ‘Path Out.’ ”
Variety reached out to the Public Enquiries division of the U.K.’s Home Office.