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Peter Gabriel Criticises Government Over Musicians' Visas
Christian Eede , August 2nd, 2018 10:22

Peter Gabriel has criticised the UK government's approach to visas after a number of international acts were forced to pull out of last month's Womad festival

Peter Gabriel, co-founder of Womad festival which launched in 1980, has criticised the UK government after a number of acts were forced to cancel their performances due to visa issues.

Sabry Mosbah from Tunisia, Wazimbo from Mozambique and members of Niger's Tal National were prevented from entering the UK, according to the festival's director Chris Smith. He also says that Indian sisters Hashmat Sultana arrived 24 hours late for their set after experiencing hold-ups.

As The Guardian reports, Gabriel has criticised UK foreign policy in the wake of the festival, saying: "The right to travel for work, for education and even for pleasure is increasingly being restricted and often along racial and religious lines.

"It is alarming that our UK festival would now have real problems bringing artists into this country … [many of whom] no longer want to come to the UK because of the difficulty, cost and delays with visas, along with the new fear that they will not be welcomed."

He continues: "Musicians travel for a living, and almost everywhere I have travelled I have been met with kindness and generosity. Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland? A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?"

Smith describes it as another example of the government's "hostile environment" policy which was also at the centre of the Windrush scandal earlier this year. He added that this year was the first that saw artists decline invitations to perform at the festival, with many of them citing the difficulty of entering the UK under the automated visa system that first caused problems for Womad last year.

The festival has been working with Home Office and Foreign Office contacts on individual cases to get visa denials overturned, and in some cases this was successful. "Sometimes this works but not consistently," explains Smith.