Tightening immigration restrictions for artists seeking to enter the UK are affecting racial and religious minorities.
Various cultural events and gathering in the UK have been reporting a number of issues of international artists trying to obtain visas, with one notable festival director saying the application system this year was the hardest it’s ever been.
The most recent to be hit by the UK Home Office decision-making process are three Egyptian curators for visas to attend a conference in Wales. Entitled ‘Beating Barriers! Overcoming Obstacles to Achievement’ the conference is to be held at the Egypt Centre in Swansea at the start of September—and offered grants to visiting speakers to cover their flights, accommodation and living expenses while in the UK.
Although copies of their grant letters were included in the application, the Home Office said one of the reasons for their objection was due to applicants salaries. Abdelrahman Othman, who works at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and was awarded best curator in Egypt this year, was at a loss as to how his application could be rejected based on his income: “This is my salary, what can I do? I earn 1,700 Egyptian pounds every month—this is a regular salary in Egypt.”
The venue’s curator Carolyn Graves-Brown, said the home office’s rejection was at odds with the institution’s premise: “Imagine my embarrassment and dismay when these young Egyptians were refused visas. Here we are telling everyone how welcoming we are, how we support young professionals, and visas are refused.”
Earlier this month the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said it was “the worst year for trying to get short-term visas for authors living outside the EU.”
Accoridng to Euronews, Palestinian author Nayrouz Qarmout also had issues applying for a visa. After being asked to deposit money in a current account from a savings account, the transaction was deemed “suspicious” by UK authorities. At the eleventh hour officials approved her application, after four failed attempts, but it was too late to appear at her scheduled event. Organizers of the festival have decided to create a special slot for her a week later.
Last month, WOMAD festival revealed that they had trouble securing visas for a number of entrants. In an interview with The Guardian, Peter Gabriel from Genesis and founder of WOMAD, said “The right to travel for work, for education and even for pleasure is increasingly being restricted and often along racial and religious lines.”