Call for ‘cultural passports’ to stop Edinburgh Festival artists being refused visas

A CITY MSP is calling for special “Festival visas” to stop overseas artists and performers heading for Edinburgh’s arts extravaganza being refused entry to the country.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 6:00 am
Gordon MacDonald is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald will make the plea to the UK Government, which is in charge of immigration rules, during a debate at Holyrood tomorrow.

He said since the Tory government had introduced hard-line visa controls, visa applications for performers had been hit by refusals, errors and delays, with some acclaimed international writers, actors and musicians forced to cancel trips.

He said: “Our reputation is being damaged and our international positioning being put at risk because of the UK Government’s hostile immigration policy.

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“Artists’ are facing a humiliating application process. Their visas are being refused. And, due to the inaction from the UK Government, artists are being deterred from coming here.

“The Edinburgh festivals rely on the seamless flow of artists from across the world and it’s time for the UK Government to listen.

“We need to look at developing something specific – something like a Cultural Passport for individuals participating in festivals around the country.

“If the UK Government won’t listen, then they should devolve immigration and let the Scottish Government get on with building a fair and functional immigration system.”

Earlier this year, Edinburgh International Book Festival director Nick Barley warned that “irretrievable damage” was being done by the current visa system.

And Festivals Edinburgh director Julia Amour said the festivals were at “real risk” with artists deterred from coming to the UK over fears it is becoming a less friendly country.

In 2017, an Arab arts showcase at the Fringe had to cancel and rework shows after a third of their visas were denied.

Project manager Sara Shaarawi said: “How the Home Office dealt with us was appalling and the reasons of refusals were flat out lies. We had a Palestinian artist who applied twice and one of the refusal letters spoke repeatedly about their circumstances in Egypt, when in reality he wasn’t based in Egypt.”