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For Artists and Performers, Britain Puts Out an Unwelcome Mat (New York Times)
From left: John Ewing, Korine Fujiwara, Charles Wetherbee and Kristin Ostling of the Carpe Diem Quartet. Photo: Karina Wetherbee
By SARAH LYALL
Published: October 19, 2011
The system, intended to limit the influx of foreigners at a time of economic and security tensions, seems straightforward enough on paper. While some artists qualify for ?temporary worker? status, the rules are intended to ensure that those who make brief visits for exhibitions, festivals, readings and the like do not earn money or try to remain in the country. But they have proved so onerous and so open to subjective misreading that even people who have been coming to Britain for years are suddenly being refused entry.
?Artists and authors are being treated as if they are potential economic migrants or terrorists,? said Jonathan Heawood, director of the literary human-rights group English PEN, which has been pressing the government to loosen the rules. ?Essentially the government is trying to crowbar them into a system that wasn?t designed for them and that sees them as a threat and not a benefit.?
Recent victims of the system include the Russian-born, New York-residing beat poet Alex Galper, who was turned away when he planned to read for no fee at a charity event; the Georgian artist Gela Patashuri, who was commissioned to produce a work for a London gallery but whose visa was denied because the authorities said they were ?not satisfied? with his qualifications; and the renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who canceled plans to direct ?Cos? Fan Tutte? at the English National Opera after his visa was granted and then withdrawn, and he was told to re-apply and to give his fingerprints again.
Britain is not the only Western country with tough borders. The United States has a notoriously arduous visa application system that has led to numerous well-publicized cases of artists and performers being refused entry.
But in Europe, Britain stands out for the strictness of its policies and the apparent inconsistencies in the way it enforces them.
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