Trump's visa ban: Indian scientists ready to...
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Feb 05, 2017  |  Vote 0    0

Trump's visa ban: Indian scientists ready to welcome stranded peers

South Asian Focus

Refusing to bow before U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban, scientists across the world, including India, have opened up their lab spaces to counterparts stranded outside America.

Under the Science Solidarity List (SSL) initiative, researchers from more than 30 countries have agreed to host the affected.

What began on social media as spontaneous offers of help from scientists to accommodate banned peers awaiting U.S. clearance, following Trump's Jan. 27 order, has emerged as a clarion call to support those in need of immediate work spaces.

Anchored by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the SSL is a "list of scientists offering temporary bench or desk space, library access and possibly even accommodation for U.S.-based scientists who are stranded abroad due to the White House Executive Order 13769, 'Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States' of 27 January, 2017."

On Friday, a U.S. judge in Seattle issued a temporary nationwide block on Trump's ban on travellers from seven predominately Muslim nations. However, the White House said the Justice Department will challenge the decision.

Offers continue to pour in as science attempts to trump the ban.

There are more than 800 offers of assistance and the list gets a new entry every five minutes or so.

"We felt we had to do something. It is very discriminating. This impacts science a lot. It impacts the work of the lab. Their projects do not get done because the scientists are missing. It impacts everyone," Maria Leptin, director EMBO, told IANS over the phone from Heidelberg, Germany.

"We (scientists) see ourselves as a worldwide community and it is a completely natural thing for us to do," she said.

While most of the host offers are from Europe, the list includes labs in India, Canada, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Singapore, Brazil, and China.

The "overwhelming response" from the fraternity is trending under the hashtag #ScienceShelters.

Coming to the rescue of their peers are also scientists from India.

Till Feb. 4, three offers were made from the country, all of them from Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS).

Theoretical physicist Sandeep Krishna has proferred desk space and access to computers, while Shashi Thutupalli's lab, dealing with experimental physical biology, is also available.

"I am a theoretical physicist who uses tools and ideas from physics and maths to try and pose new kinds of questions about basic processes in biological systems. Thus, what I can offer is simply desk space and access to computers and a scientific environment where a stranded scientist can continue their work, at least to some extent," Krishna told IANS.

Expressing his views on the ban, Krishna reckons it would do more harm than good to the U.S.

He added: "In India, though we can hardly take the moral high ground here because our governments similarly fail repeatedly, in my opinion, to protect the rights of minorities, including Muslims, and do not have a humane approach to immigrants or even a consistent political and legal framework for them."

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